John Carter was born in Hampton Hill, Middlesex in 1942. His artistic education proper started under Osmund Caine at Twickenham School of Art, which strictly focused on design. With no fine art department, Carter was only allowed to practice life painting as a special concession. In 1959, Carter transfered to Kingston School of Art, where he studied under Reginald Brill, and won the Summer Composition Prize in 1960. His work at this time was a fusion of Pop art and formal abstraction, later moving towards collage, then a mixture of Op art and sculpture. In 1963 Carter was granted a Leverhulme Travelling Scholarship to Rome, where he first experimented with abstract constructions, inspired by a visit to the Venice Biennale a year earlier. After returning to Britain in 1965, he began teaching at the London College of Printing, as well working as an assistant to the sculptor Bryan Kneale, who at the time was preparing for a forthcoming exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, where Carter himself showed in 1966 within the framework of the New Generation show (curated by Bryan Robertson). In 1966 one of Carter's paintings was shown on the cover of the Redfern Gallery Summer Exhibition catalogue. Subsequently, he was then requested to design the covers of the 1967 and 1968 catalogues. Carter had his first solo show at the Redfern in 1968.


Following a trip to the USA where he met Groucho Marx, Robert Motherwell, and Richard Diebenkorn, amongst others, Carter held his first solo exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1968. By this time, the artist was influenced by American Pop aesthetics, in particular the emphatic visual language of advertisements, which he translated into three-dimensional objects and small-scale sculptures. He returned to America again in 1971-72, and begun teaching part time at the Wimbledon School of Art in 1975. In 1977 he was awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Award, and started to teach part-time at the University of Reading Fine Art Department, where he met his future wife, Belinda Cadbury. In 1979 he won the Arts Council of Great British Purchase Award, and joined the Nicola Jacobs Gallery. In the following year, he won a prize at the Tolly Cobbold/Eastern Arts 3rd National Exhibition.


In 1982, Carter developed his work further, adding cuts to his pieces and playing with angles, verticals, and parallelograms. In the late 1980s, Carter forged his first connections with European constructivism, with which he has since allied himself, visually rather than conceptually. In 1986 he took part in the large international exhibition Die Ecke at Galerie Hoffmann in Friedberg, with which he begun a lifelong association. This show also brought him into contact with European concrete and constructive artists. He also married Cadbury in the same year. In 2007 he became an Elected Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in the sculpture category. Two years later, Carter was invited to rejoin the Redfern Gallery, and a year after that was given a retrospective.


A combination of painting and sculpture distinguishes Carter's oeuvre. Solidity is often conveyed by something that is not there, by a negative space, a lacuna. Illusion prompts the exploration of space through a variety of modular sequences. Tactility is created by the three-dimensionality of the objects whose sculptural nature approaches that of architecture. 


Throughout his career, Carter has exhibited in important shows across Europe and internationally, including in Germany, Sweden, Japan, and the USA. Carter held a teaching position at Chelsea College of Art and Design until his retirement from the post in 1999. Examples of his work are included in numerous public collections such as the British Council Collection, the Royal Academy of Arts, and the Contemporary Art Society. He was elected a Royal Academician in 2007 and a solo exhibition dedicated to his work took place at the Royal Academy in 2012. 


John Carter RA is represented by the Redfern Gallery.

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