Visual Arts

Cover Artist: Elizabeth Porritt Carrington

Snowy Biltmore Path in the Afternoon. Elizabeth Porritt Carrington

Snowy Biltmore Path in the Afternoon. Elizabeth Porritt Carrington

By Gina Malone

A childhood of enchantment roaming the countryside. Family that included a grandmother who was an artist, a father who was a chef and a mother who was a musician. Ancient Celtic songs and stories of fairies, witches, giants and little people. Such an upbringing contributed to Elizabeth Porritt Carrington’s becoming not just an artist but an eco-contemplative artist, a title she came up with to describe the influence of the natural world on her creativity. “I make landscape art that is a spiritual practice, and one that has come to meet me as much as I have gone to find it,” she says. “Nature, I feel, is waiting for me to be present, and I practice profoundly noticing that presence. Nature is a powerful teacher for me.”

Elizabeth was born on a farm in the west of Ireland to a father who was immersed from a young age in the natural world, including gardening, crafts, foraging and cooking, and a mother who sang at banquets at a medieval castle. “I thought she was an angel as did everyone else,” Elizabeth says. “Music was a normal part of our days.”

As the youngest of four children, Elizabeth spent a great deal of time rambling all over the countryside. “Those early years were dreamy,” she says. “I was very lucky to have such freedom wandering about meadows and through hazel woods and watching foxes from high up in trees. It was an enchanting time.”

There were, however, losses as well in those young years. “I got very used to saying goodbye and that, too, has shaped me and my work,” she says. “My work has a patience, commitment and sincerity in its making that I know has come from long days and nights of reckoning with life and death—saying goodbye to loved ones, welcoming new loved ones—and time.”

Elizabeth Porritt Carrington. Photo by Studio Misha Photography

Elizabeth Porritt Carrington. Photo by Studio Misha Photography

She graduated from art school in Galway, Ireland, in 2002, where she studied sculpture and new media. “I was so lucky to have great teachers,” she says. “Their voices still ring true. As a painter, though, my teachers have been nature, these hands of mine getting used to it, the paints and surfaces themselves, and maybe my grandmother in me.”

In 2013 she moved from Ireland to Asheville to be with her husband Philip James Roth and his daughters. The two had met four years earlier at a silent retreat in Hot Springs, NC. At the time Elizabeth’s first husband had died and she and her young daughter, both grieving, were traveling in the US to visit family. “Who meets at a silent retreat?” she asks. “We did! It was my first and I was not settling in very well, was in fact completely freaking out and planning to leave. It was Philip who saw the signs and broke silence to ask me if I needed help and simply listened to my story in a beautiful way.”

She had never imagined moving from Ireland, she says, and uprooting her life. However, “our connection was incredibly strong and even when it seemed everything was against us being together—including the Atlantic Ocean—we somehow found ourselves eventually building a life together.”

She settled into the River Arts District after finding studio space in the Phil Mechanic building almost five years ago. “I work there regularly and if I am not there I am in the mountains with my subject or in Ireland where I return each summer to reconnect with my roots there, my family, and to paint and guide tours,” she says. “I come back always brimming with new work to make through the winter. Ireland and Appalachia come together in my work often, merging mountains, streams and coastlines, which is my experience of loving both places.”

Good day Good night, Old Friend, New Light

Good day Good night, Old Friend, New Light

For the essence of her work and what she seeks to offer to the world with her creations, Elizabeth draws upon an old Irish saying about the spiritual world being just behind your own house with beautiful lands all scattered into each other. “My canvases are covered by me,” she says, “the pigments, the ochres, the places these have come from; the water that has been everywhere; or linseed oils from yellow-flowered fields; the breath shared by the planet and its atmosphere; the sounds and feelings and notions of the day that wash through me; the subject in my memory or indeed before me if I am outdoors; the brushes that are born sometimes from animal hairs and wood from trees and other times synthetic made from plastics coming from oil in the ground. I like to stay aware of this when I work, not to make myself careful with my tools but more to remember that I am participating in a creative action that has a lot of elements. It’s not all about me.”

Elizabeth began teaching art workshops and classes in Ireland when her daughter was young, she says, “turning my home into The Art House, as I called it.” She has continued that practice in her Asheville studio, teaching one-on- one classes and working with high school students from SOLA School of Living Arts in Candler. “Teaching has been an integral thread to my art practice and always woven into my work,” she says. “It has also offered me the chance to share my discoveries as an artist and the gift of seeing others make their own.”

She has turned to nature for solace and inspiration all of her life, she says. “I would say my painting practice is by far a conversation with the presence of nature and an invitation, I feel, to relearn our relationship with Earth right now. I am unapologetically romantic about this life and our planet. I see ‘romanticism as activism’ as the mythologist and poet Martin Shaw says.”

To learn more, visit ElizabethCarringtonArt.com, call 828.707.0623 or find her on Instagram @elizabetharthouse. Her studio is located on the fourth floor at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts Street, in the River Arts District. Find her work also at The O Gallery in Norcross, GA, and at Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville.

Leave a Comment