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John Carter | Sight Lines | Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
30 March to 9 June 2019
A review by Alex James
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Installation shot, courtesy Jerwood Gallery
In this, the final exhibition by the Jerwood project at its satellite gallery in
Hastings, John Carter’s work over the last 50 years is celebrated with a solo survey.
The selected overview is predominantly large in scale, sensitively balanced against
a representative collection of smaller pieces, prints and preparatory documentation.
The curation is ambitious and seeks to present the dignity, variety and quiet presence
of the artist’s output. Our attention is drawn to the artist’s skill in articulating
the transition from two-
Square, acrylic on board, 1970. Courtesy Jerwood Gallery
The works in the exhibition are presented chronologically. Square, acrylic on board, 1970, is one of the earliest pieces on display and relies on a structural configuration of gradated squares and diagonal detail, with a centre void punctuating it diagonally across its breadth. This brooding, monumental wall piece gives forth the illusion that it is somehow part of the fabric of the gallery building itself, partly because of its seemingly innate architectural volume. This quality is also characteristic of many of Carter’s other sculptural works such as Intersecting Elements (1991), and Overlaid Elements: Double Square (1988), which are in a different room. Many of these monumental / monolithic works are in fact constructed of plywood and are given the appearance of sheer mass by the application to each surface of various pigments which contain marble dust, bronzing powder and similar constituents.
Archway, mixed media, 1968. Courtesy Jerwood Gallery
In close proximity to Square stands the next structural work; similarly sized but
more open: Archway (mixed media,1968), the formality of which is belied by the interesting
use of found industrial components. Steel cables and a tension rig are combined with
Black ring, 1972-
Two Circles, 1974, and Black Ring, 1972-
In his early career, Carter’s initial exposure to UK artists such as Victor Passmore, Mary Martin and Anthony Hill had all awakened his interest in geometry and related matters. But he may have become aware that this genre in Britain was rapidly being eclipsed by the next generation of US artists of the ’60s, leaving Constructionism and its cohorts to somewhat dissipate and fall away from the mainstream. This awareness of international developments led him to apply for (and win) the Stuyvesant Foundation Scholarship in 1966 which eventually set him on a course of investigation, the results of which we see now. This interest in the international/European scene was to develop further throughout the ’80s.
Big pink, oil on plywood, 1978. Courtesy Jerwood Gallery
Big Pink, oil on plywood, 1978, and Squares in Blue, oil on plywood, 1978, offer a return to Carter’s engagement with line and angle. Both pieces describe the square or right angle in rotation, with a play on positive and negative space, and with further permutations characteristic of many of the other works in the show. This is found, for example, in Angled Slot, oil on mdf, 2014, and in Pierced Red Shape, acrylic with marble powder on plywood, 2015, both from the 1985 maquette in which the form is reduced even further, and where the line, literally denoted in Angled Slot, becomes dominant and more descriptive as the negative or void in Pierced Red Shape.
Pierced red shape, acrylic with marble powder on plywood, 2014. Courtesy Jerwood Gallery
Over the last 50 years, many generations of international artists will have been influenced directly or otherwise by this important 20th century artist. It is apposite that this exhibition should be mounted now, given that the tide in the UK seems to be turning back in favour of this genre, driven by a younger generation. A further exhibition of Carter’s works on paper is currently on at the Redfern Gallery in London, to coincide with the release of a publication about his work by the Royal Academy.
“On Paper: Surface and Structure” Redfern Gallery, 5th June-