RA Magazine Autumn 2013
Issue Number: 120
John Carter RA
John Carter RA is noted for works that play sculpture against painting. Now a show of his works on paper in the Academy’s Tennant Gallery reveals his thought processes, writes Chris Yetton
John Carter RA uses drawing to develop ideas for his finished works, searching for clear meaningful images with balance and harmony.
John Carter RA, 'Matrix', 2012. Oil on cut paper, 475 x 475 mm. © the artist. Photo: Peter Abrahams, Lucid Plane His mature work is closest to the European tradition of Concrete Art, deriving from Theo van Doesburg in the 1930s and Max Bill after the Second World War. However, two 1965 collages, Study for ‘Monument’, and Caprice, in an exhibition of Carter’s works on paper in the Academy’s Tennant Gallery, reveal a surprising creative clash between Pop Art and formal abstraction. He frequently reconsiders earlier work, and the 1974 abstract drawing in conté crayon, also on view, is one of a series based on an early figurative drawing of his parents’ garden, with a drain cover in the lawn.
Matrix (2012) is a square of paper with an equal rectangle cut from three corners. Further cuts read as lines drawn on the paper, appearing to divide it in half horizontally and vertically and suggesting squares within it. Carter here makes sculptural incision masquerade as painted mark.
Dark marks in some of his drawings (such as Pierced Square Study, 1990) indicate voids in finished works. The drawings explore forms of equality: squares (equal sides); parallel lines (equally spaced along their length); division (equal halves); golden section (the ratio of the smaller section to the larger equals that of the larger to the whole). Through the juxtaposition of the reality of sculpture with the illusion of painting, these works are meditations on the relationship between knowledge and imagination. They are preparatory drawings using various media with a delicate sensuality that makes them beautiful in their own right.
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