Sometimes she tried to think about painting | Carol Sommer

EXHIBITION | 5th - 14th August 2022

Gallery opening times:
Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th August 12pm – 5pm
Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th August 12pm – 5pm

Preview: Friday 5th August 6pm – 8pm

Sommer is interested in the contemporary relevance of the philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch’s writing about women’s experience. Since March 2020 she has used Instagram as a platform to look at the lockdowns through the lenses of the literary orientations of Murdoch’s women and the representation of women in (mainly) 1970s film, and vice versa. For Sommer, it is perhaps no surprise that these thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations chimed with our experiences of lockdown – Murdoch’s women are also no strangers to feelings of isolation and disorientation.

“Sometimes she tried to think about painting” is a quote from the thoughts of Rosalind, a character in Murdoch’s 1995 novel ‘Jackson’s Dilemma’. Rosalind’s restlessness at the time of this thought has caused her to cease painting, and we learn that she is temporarily unable to paint, nor can she focus on her book, she can only look at it intermittently.

Rosalind’s thinking is mirrored in Sommer’s own experience of a kind of creative stasis brought about by the lockdowns, and in her interpretation of Murdoch’s thinking about Eros, a force which might be productively harnessed in the act of painting. From what Sommer gleans of Murdoch’s ideas, this force is like a kind of scale with selfish desires at one end, and more noble things outside of the self (like painting), at the other.

In October 2021, Sommer bought a vintage 70s dress and began to make short videos as Instagram posts in responses to Rosalind’s thought, responding to her own feeling of creative disconnect, and a desire to do something physical, something visceral, like painting, and being outdoors, as escapism and a break from working solely on the computer indoors making Instagram posts. In these videos she wears the dress and tries to think about painting, making interventions into spaces with features that might represent Eros in some way. These features might be interpreted as either Freudian or Platonic (erection/elevation).

For 36 Gallery, Sommer has collated most of the Instagram posts into a looped video, a format that may unveil both the mechanics of the process, and some of the considerations that came out of these efforts of trying (and failing), to summon up the spirit of painting.

With thanks to Paul Merrick, Steve Sommer and all the friends and family who lent chairs and ladders and supported this work, both on Instagram and in this opportunity to show it with the time for it to assimilate its intentions differently.


The former 36 Lime Street Gallery was established in 2009 as an artist run space to provide a platform for emerging and established artists to experiment and take risks with new work. Selected by committee from an open call, 8 proposals are selected and exhibited throughout the year.

The gallery space continues to provide a platform as 36.