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The Art Five, Issue 12, with Artist, Caroline Streatfield

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Caroline Streatfield’s paintings investigate how memory is transmitted from one generation to the next through storytelling drawing on themes from the artist's heritage of the former Czechoslovakia and surrounding countries. Streatfield's large-scale portraits of women consider how narratives are retold creating a dialogue between past and present.

Caroline Streatfield pictured in front of her paintings.
Portal, 190 x 165 cm, oil on distemper canvas, 2020

CS: 'This painting is a metaphor for an ancestor arriving from the past and it aims to evoke a surreal sense of disconnection, isolation and alienation. My mother arrived in London in 1968 from Slovakia (then part of Czechoslovakia) just before the Russian invasion. She did not bring photographs, and she could not contact her relatives and they couldn't contact her until communism ended in 1989. So, I grew up with only her oral histories to go alongside my visual imaginings. This painting depicts a portal where my relatives could come and visit me in the UK.

Hidden Daughter, 130 x 130 cm Oil on canvas, 2020

CS: I want to express the feeling of nostalgia that many children of migrants’ experience and this is at the forefront of my paintings - the imagined feeling of meeting ancestors - in a way to make up for lost time.

In day-to-day life these feelings are lived out through a subconscious longing to understand my ancestors and find common ground with other second-generation migrants.

Souvenir for Millais, 120 x 90 cm, oil on canvas , 2019

CS: This is my daughter but could as easily be a self-portrait wearing the folk costume of the region of Slovakia where my ancestors are from. I wanted to show how childhood is transient but is the foundation for identity, the folk costume is to show my hidden past. I was initially inspired by John Everett Millais (1829-1896) A Souvenir of Velázquez, which is inspired by Velázquez's mid 17th century portraits of the Infanta Maria Margarita.

Left: The Longing, 2019, oil on canvas, 120 x 90 cm, right: The Longing, 130 x 80 cm , oil on canvas, 2020

CS: In these paintings I wanted to show how these figures are out of reach or reaching (yearning) for something that has past, it is never attainable. But the memory, whether personal or told by others, is always accessible.

The Hidden, 2019, 40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas
Dreamer, 30 x 30 cm, oil on canvas 2020

CS: I’ve been lucky that my studio has been open as its lone working and an hour walk away so I have only been disrupted by the cold weather as there no heating there. I’m working towards my solo show with some large scale paintings. I have a solo show in June (dates to be confirmed due to lockdown) at OpenHand OpenSpace. The John Moores Painting Prize exhibition is live now virtually, and they hope to open as soon as restrictions are lifted.


Thank you to Caroline Streatfield for participating in The Art Five, Issue 12.

Future exhibitions:

Solo exhibition at OpenHand OpenSpace, 571 Oxford Rd, Reading.

John Moores Painting Prize 2021

Affordable Art Fair, Hampstead, September 2021

About Caroline Streatfield

British contemporary painter, Caroline Streatfield (b. 1969, London) studied MA Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London, 2019. Caroline was selected for the John Moores Painting Prize 2021, and is currently represented by University of the Arts London (UAL) Made in Arts London mentorship until 2021. She is an OHOS member artist-at Open Hand Open Space, Reading. Awards and residencies include Ingram Purchase Prize finalist 2019; OpenHand OpenSpace Member artist 2019; Recipient of the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust Award, 2018; Shortlisted for the National Open Art prize, 2019.

All images courtesy of The Artist.

The Art Five © 2021.

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