Room 1. The painter who has been the most important point of reference for Lawrence Carroll is Giorgio Morandi. One can see various links between the two artists: the use of traditional techniques in innovative exploration of the medium of painting; the fact they themselves built the wooden stretchers for their canvases (thus exemplifying their focus on the concrete act of ‘making’); their predilection for simple objects that are never rigidly geometrical but modelled within a margin of imperfection; the importance of empty space in their work; a use of colour that is neither aggressive nor exhibitionistic. For Morandi, bottles, cylinders and boxes were like living characters; lovingly preserved, then abandoned, then returned to, they appeared in infinitely various but skilfully-balanced architectural compositions. In the same way, Carroll’s works are like characters that move in space; perhaps in a dialogue, perhaps rebuffing each other, they impose themselves upon the eye or else appear to flee into a sleep of unfathomable mystery.
Room 2. Shorn of excrescences, this vast space contains an installation of small and medium-sized works. What dominates here is a sense of peace and serenity; all the works are part of a single poetic discourse. Placed in relation to the walls of the rooms, these pieces exemplify various different procedures: there are volumes placed on top of each other (Box Painting), overlapping individual sheets (Calendar Painting), planes that are placed perpendicular to wall (Page Painting). Finally, enclosed within a small box on the floor, is a wax box that says ‘YES’ to both life and to death.
Room 3. The installation in this room plays less on visual depth; it is constructed to draw the eye immediately to the large canvas against which hang wax reproduction of the artist’s own hands, a direct reference to the manual craft of his art. Together with this evocative presence are two of Carroll’s earlier works, made up of parts that have been cut and then reassembled. On the floor is a small bag containing letters in wax; used by Carroll to compose verse, they are then tipped into the container so that they might in the future be used to form new words of poetry.
Room 4. Though each of these early works is complex in its own right, here they form a poetic interaction of balance and harmony. The feature common to all three is the use of thin, fluid paint which means that underlying layers remain visible and thus transform our perception of the finished work. Here for the first time Carroll combines different forms, fixing them together. The sharp-eyed will see that a window has been opened within the canvas and then closed.
Room 5. For this monumental space Carroll has created a large “site-specific” work which is more than four metres high and dominates the wall opposite the windows. Alongside it are two large “site-specific” volumes that project into the room and at first sight appear to be empty. These establish a careful dialectic of occupied and unoccupied space, bringing together moulded components and mysterious spaces whose contents are more diaphanous and enigmatic. In contraposition to these powerful presences are small-size works that mediate the variations of scale within the whole installation.
Room 6. In this square space Carroll has created a powerfully symmetrically installation: a large diptych on the end wall is flanked by two rather similar pictures and preceded by a low work in the middle of the floor. Upon careful analysis, the apparent simplicity of the work is revealed to be a play upon complexity: the niches within the diptych initiate variations in size and relations that are reflected in the side paintings and then composed into a carefully studied equilibrium thanks to the presence of the work at the centre of the floor.
Room 7. The space in this room is almost entirely occupied by the installation: the narrow space left for the spectator means that he/she is directly caught up in the work itself. The work on the floor appears monumental and is complemented by that on the walls (of almost the same size), forming a single unified whole. The contrast with the spacious installation in Room 2 is clear, even if there are striking analogues between the works themselves. At the same time there is a reiteration of the monumental scale to be found in Room 5, a sort of variation on a theme.
Room 8. Here the idea of sequential variety is underlined by the fact that the large empty space in the middle room ‘contradicts’ the layout in the previous room. The rhythm of presentation becomes calmer, with the works exemplifying types one has already seen but now to a different scale. The large canvas in the centre with the ivy insert is particularly poetic; the two volumes projecting from the walls are monumental, but are less enigmatic than those to be found in Room 5.
Room 9. This concludes the long line of rooms that overlook St. Mark’s Square. It is the only one to contain a complete series of works produced at the same time and exploring the same theme; the presentation, too, is more traditional, with the large paintings hung on the walls. However, this complex body of Sleeping Paintings is not turned inwards, not closed upon itself; it opens up to further development, as one can see from the work glimpsed through the door that leads to the back of the palazzo. This exemplifies a deeply-felt need in Carroll: the presence of a metaphorical and real ‘escape route’ (in fact, the door is an emergency exit).
Room 10. In this last room the visitor encounters an enigmatic fruit crate, which contains snowballs, a more ephemeral and mysterious type of ‘fruit’. The installation does not rework space in the same way as one sees in the previous rooms. Instead, it presents the almost domestic combination of the sculpture with one of Carroll’s Stacked Paintings and a delicate bunch of white flowers on a large canvas that has been elaborately worked with knife and colour.