It is the seventh of July 2005, and Carolina has just arrived in London. Shortly after landing four bombs explode, three on the tube and one on a bus, during the notorious London bombings. While the city is dominated by panic and terror, Carolina is seeking her father, whom she has not seen since she was a child. In her hand, just a one-way ticket to London.
«For me, London was finding and meeting my father» she says, sitting among her drawings in the gallery where she works, her elegant dress dangerously close to the dripping paint. She does not seem to care. In Carolina’s mind, her journey was supposed to be quite a simple one but, of course, nothing went according to plan.
The meeting with her father was disappointing, to say the least. As he was in an even more complicated emotional situation than when he left Carolina’s family, he could not support her in any way. Carolina was thus alone, a seventeen year old painter in a city she hardly knew, if not at all. She started roaming through London and came upon a squat. She noticed paintings and an exhibition, and started to talk to the organisers about her work, finally agreeing on bringing them a few pieces for the exhibition. While they were discussing, she noticed some people going downstairs in their pyjamas, soon finding out that many artists lived there. As she was looking for a place to stay, a few days later she ended up moving in with them.
«This was my toughest London, yet the most magical». Carolina spent her first months in the squat, where life was almost idyllic; she met artists, visionary characters, gurus, even a Colombian shaman, all creating and exchanging ideas in that space. Those were amazing months for her, which came to an end when she had to come back to Italy for a few weeks. When she arrived back in London, she discovered the police had seized and locked the building. She did not have any idea where her friends had gone, what had become of her works or even her clothes.
Along with a few people from the original building, she moved to another squat, but the situation was different. A huge block of flats where the apartments were alternatively inhabited by artists and by situations of terrible degradation. In the morning, when Carolina went out to study for her final high school exams, she had to pass prostitutes and heroine dealers. In the afternoon and the evening she worked in cafés and pubs. Meanwhile she kept painting and exhibiting. When she finally managed to sell her first painting for more than a thousand pounds, she perceived that something had changed: «From that moment, I stopped thinking “I’ll try” but rather said to myself “I’ll do it”. And I did not want to do anything else».
Now Carolina is a successful painter, showing her work around in England, New York and Los Angeles. She mostly paints and exhibits there in Shoreditch, right on the border with the City. Paradoxically, since the gallery is between run down areas and the core of London finance, it is equally likely either a homeless person or a millionaire could come into the very room where she is painting and telling her story.
Her most distinctive technique is to paint from the stains she creates by dropping ink, tea or coffee onto a blank canvas.