Simon Carroll’s work drew on many different traditions from Greek amphorae, Staffordshire slipware and porcelain baskets, a process he found fundamental and enriching. The work he insisted was not a homage to the past but very contemporary in its concerns. Throwing, hand building and moulding were used to create his work of which he commented ‘if it is madness, I embrace it, as I embrace the cracks, imperfections and flaws that occur as a result of an intense working process’. Two-dimensional work such as printmaking was essential to his development in ceramics as they helped to expose images within him which may otherwise not have surfaced.
Emmanuel Cooper writes ‘Carroll established his studio in a revamped Nissen hut on a disused airfield in Cornwall, where his companion was his dog, Murphy, a Jack Russell. The deserted beaches proved ideal for his sand drawings, the size of a football pitch. These, often featuring giant, stylised pots, were drawn freely with a rake into the sand with no planning beforehand; process and completed works were ideally viewed from the tops of the rocky cliffs. Spectacular and effective, the drawings were washed away by the tide, with only photographs to record their scale and ambition.
A major breakthrough came in 2006 with a show at Tate St Ives, when Carroll filled the long showcase with tall, thrown and manipulated pieces that included modelled parts, incised decoration, colour and slips and incorporated diverse references such as 18th-century porcelain, Staffordshire slipware and the decoration on Oribe ware, as well as Elizabethan ruffles. All were inventively amalgamated into his squareish forms, some with rounded feet, which brought an understanding of the history of ceramics into the 21st century, the cracks and imperfections being a vital part of the story.’
Carroll’s abilities gained him national and international recognition and in 2008 he exhibited, lectured and demonstrated in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and the US. In 2009 he was diagnosed with liver cancer and tragically died at the age of 45.