Achaintre cites German Expressionism and post-war British sculpture as influences on her work; these movements are known for their crude aesthetics which conveyed the trauma of a war-time generation. Her work also draws from ‘Primitivism’, a style of early 20th century art that incorporated imagery from tribal cultures. Achaintre is interested in these periods because they present junctures between the ancient and modern, psychological and physical, exoticism and technology. Fevver broaches these terrains with its fearsome geometric face. Its brown thatched patterning looks like an animal skin, while its eyes seem strangely modern like sunglasses. Achaintre likens her work to anthropological museum displays, where objects are removed from another place or time and are brought into a contemporary context.
Caroline Achaintre initially started making tufted objects as a way to translate drawings into real space. To make her work Achaintre tufts each individual piece of yarn into a woven canvas base, a process which she likens to painting in wool. The length, texture and colour of each thread takes on the qualities of expressionist painting. Achaintre uses wool because of its physicality, its attractive but sometimes also repulsive attributes. Its natural fabric suggests something primitive, but also the technological precision and connoisseurship of post-industrial craft. These ideas are reflected in her compositions, which look like futuristic tribal masks. Achaintre is interested in masks because they represent duplicity: whether used for shamanism, theatre, or carnival, masks suggest a state where reality and the fantastical can exist at the same time.
Though Achaintre’s process is highly technical and labour-intensive, she develops her work quite spontaneously. Because she has to tuft the wool from the back side of the canvas, her compositions are developed largely through intuition. The holes in the canvas allude to the unseen space behind the face; these enhance the works’ sculptural form and also give a sense of ‘false’ presentation or apparition. Moustache-Eagle has a mystical quality: it’s both a man and a bird and suggests a state of transition. Its rich colours convey an exotic power that’s simultaneously entrancing and ominous. Achaintre considers her work as part of a tradition of tapestry; her works’ theatrical images function as both pictorial illusion and concrete (and potentially usable) object.