John Carter RA

b. 1942

John Carter was born in Middlesex, and studied at Twickenham School of Art, and then at Kingston School of Art from 1959-63, where he was taught by Terry Frost, among others. Upon graduating, he was awarded a Leverhulme Travelling Scholarship to Italy. At this time he made collages on paper, using the bold colours of Pop Art as well as showing an interest in shapes and geometry. Several examples can be found in the Arts Council Collection, including The Great Square I. Herein, the intersecting lines of primary colours appear to form the basis of one of his first contructed works, the three-dimensional painting on composite canvases and wood, entitled Emblem, of 1964. This was one of the first works in which Carter began to question the attributes of painting and sculpture. Carter has since become known for his so-called 'wall objects' - constructions of sculpted and painted plywood that form a novel dialogue between painting and sculpture. The flatness, colour and divided surface areas are typical of paintings, but a sculptural quality is suggested through the contours and incised lines that penetrate the painted surface. His work received critical acclaim, notably from Robert Hughes, when included in the third of Bryan Robertson's New Generation exhibitions, in 1966. Here, Joe Tilson recommended that Scatola be purchased by the Contemporary Art Society, while Alan Bowness selected another of his exhibits, Lever Painting, to enter the Arts Council Collection. Later that year, Carter was taken on by the Redfern, and several successful one-man exhibitions followed throughout the 1970s. By the end of the decade, he was part of Herbert Read's survey of British painting and sculpture, a touring exhibition of the USA, alongside Anthony Caro, John Hoyland and Bridget Riley, and was also selected by William Packer for the first British Art Show, which toured the UK.   


By the mid-'70s, Carter began creating sculpture on a smaller scale, but which still played with the viewer's perceptions. These required the participation of the viewer, in that just as the viewer moves closer to the work, and views it from different angles, so their experience of the work changes. His series of three works entitled Resemblance, of 1973, was purchased by the Arts Council in 1976. Carter has explained how in the '80s he moved "away from making complicated or even romantic constructions, which demanded equally complex working methods, to more logical ways of working". As such, he took shapes as the starting-point for his work, and then over the course of playful investigation, explored variations of that shape. For example, a simple square would be repeated and subjected to rigorous rotations to create an artwork, but each work is always underpinned by a sense of harmony and proportion. For the art critic Mel Gooding, "these objects conform always to a systematic ordering of theoretic relations, the mathematical or geometrical givens that have generated them in the first place - in Carter's case, these are invariably simple, albeit ingenious". 


In 1983, a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Warwick Arts Trust, London. In 1986, he participated in the international group exhibition Die Ecke at Galerie Hoffmann, Friedberg, Germany, where he met the European Concrete and Constructivist artists. He has since exhibited widely in Europe, especially Germany, and 1993 saw the realisation of a monumental sculpture at the Technische Universität, Darmstadt. Alongside his career as an artist, teaching has been an important aspect of his life, and Carter was a lecturer at Chelsea College of Art for nearly twenty years, before retiring in 1999. Elected Royal Academician in 2007, Carter was the subject of a retrospective at Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, in 2019, while an exhibition of his printmaking was held at the Royal Academy later in the year.


John Carter RA is represented by the Redfern Gallery. 

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John Carter RA

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