Writings on Water

Dancing ink on canvas, drawing with a hand breathing.
I draw what I cannot dance… remaining forever on a page.
Carolyn Carlson, 2017

Scan 2017-8-5 15.29.14From the image on the exhibition leaflet I just knew it was going to be good. But walking through the exhibition of Carolyn Carlson’s drawings revealed some serious soulful authenticity.


Carolyn Carlson photographed by Guy Delahaye in Venice, 1988

Carolyn Carlson is a Californian dancer and choreographer who has lived for extensive periods of time in Paris, Roubaix, Venice and New York. During her nomadic existence she has always written, drawn and painted in fusion with her dancing career.  Carolyn Carlson’s ballet, ‘Writings on Water‘, lends its name to this exhibition that presents over 100 sketches and drawings. The venue, museum La Piscine in Roubaix, is no coincidence. Not only is the water just next to the exhibition rooms but Carlson was also director of the Centre Choréographique National in Roubaix for 9 years.


La Piscine, Roubaix, a public swimming pool turned into a museum.

Carlson calls herself a self-taught poet, illustrator, and calligraphic painter, with influences from a Zen Master. During a meditation class in New York in the 1960’s she drew her first ink drawing with a one-out breath. She recalls that instant as a discovery, a key to her work. Her dance improvisation encouraged also her calligraphic works which she likes to call an imaginary spontaneous solo.

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For the ballet ‘Signes’ she collaborated with Olivier Debré. In the exhibition you can see Carlson’s design drawings and a video of the final ballet.


It’s also very interesting to see many of her tools, sketchbooks, artist books etc. displayed in the exhibition. Altogether, ‘Writing on Water’ succeeds to provide an intimate look into the holistic artistic life of Carolyn Carlson.

Carolyn Carlson ‘Writing on Water’ is on view in La Piscine till 24 Sep 2017. Pictures are taken by me in the exhibition, artworks are taken from the catalogue.