Carrie Stanley

“This exhibition is about having the strength to deal with the difficult things in life through the joy of painting, so it’s a strong show made by strong women,” Carrie Stanley says thoughtfully when asked to describe her new exhibition at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock ‘Vibrant Journeys in Paint‘.

The results are a sumptuous, liberated, spontaneous, colourful, rich spread of bright colour, loose almost abstract forms and an elusive message that flits throughout the work of Carrie and fellow painter Arabella Ross.

Both use art, not as therapy but as a means to work through their life experiences and trauma, Carrie having lost her husband in 2012.

Three steps to a development by Carrie Stanley

Having worked as a private art tutor since then, the Oxford based artist used the isolation of Covid as an opportunity to start painting again and in so doing reinvented herself.


Her subject matter and use of colour surprised even her, her process unplanned and instant, the images starting life as an initial feeling, a colour or memory, as if the canvases dictated their own journey. She entered three in the Art For The Heart charity auction run by Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock, which drew the interest of director Lizzie Collins, who has staged the new exhibition for Blenheim.

Blood Rose by Carrie Stanley

“It’s known as automatic painting, but for me it’s about not being too conscious about what you are painting – a kind of flow state, often a response to something in your memory – a song, an emotion triggering an immediate response. It’s quite disassociated,” she says. “The paint itself dictates the outcome.

“My work always surprises me, and I like that – not knowing how it’s going to turn out,” she says.

Arabella Ross – Entering into the garden of Earthly delights, 2021

Carrie took seven months to complete the eight large works currently on display at Blenheim’s Stable Gallery and Cafe, the stunning, bright, striking works of art impossible to ignore.

“My work always surprises me, and I like that – not knowing how it’s going to turn out”

And yet there is more to them than may initially meet the eye, not so much dark undertones, as underlying messages. So how much do her life experiences shape her art?

“I have PTSD, which for me enhances colours and exaggerates forms and that’s reflected in my palette and my choices. Does it inform my work though? No, but it’s part of you, who you are because art reflects everything that happens to you in life – so perhaps that explains the startling nature of my painting.”

Wild card up my sleeve by Carrie Stanley

And does Joe Public need to understand that? “Not at all. People have different psychological responses to the colour and subject matter and see entirely different things. I make art primarily for myself but I’m very happy when it talks to others.”

Does Carrie regret not becoming a full time artist until now? After all her work is much in demand at the moment – her work is included in the Portraits for Heroes book – an initiative set up by local artist Tom Croft which enabled artists to make free portraits for NHS workers, a solo show at Zuleika is coming up, she has work in galleries in Walsall and St Albans, a place at the prestigious Turps Art School and has been shortlisted for the Jackson’s art prize 2021.

“art reflects everything that happens to you in life – so perhaps that explains the startling nature of my painting”

“She has also been awarded a grant by the Arts Council for her Grief Project which will explore grief, in particular suicide, through art.

“My three children are a bit older now so I’ve got the time to dedicate myself to my practice. I don’t want to sound like I’m full of myself but I do feel that this is my time, it’s about self confidence and self allowance,” she says.

Arabella Ross -The pale pink light of dawn in the magical woodlands

And how does that feel? “It’s very exposing and amazing at the same time. It’s about taking your emotions and difficult experiences and transmuting them into something else.”

And does she mind that her art is so honest? “No, if it helps other people. It’s about telling my story and being brave and confident in my voice as an artist. For me art is all about accessibility.”

So how does she feel seeing her art up on the walls at Blenheim? “The exhibition looks amazing. We are really excited and our work makes the space really sing. So it’s a pivotal moment in my career I hope.”

Vibrant Journeys In Paint runs at Blenheim’s Stable Gallery and cafe from June 10 – January 2023. For more information go to