‘The paintings are very much an exploration of the unknown, about what might be possible, rather than what is’. Andrew Lambirth (author and critic)
Messums Wiltshire is delighted to welcome painter Simon Carter as our artist over the summer festival season for a three-week solo exhibition. Join us for a preview of his coastal landscapes in the Long Gallery on Wednesday 11 July. Our monthly Supper Club will follow the preview with Simon Carter invited as our guest artist.
Taking as its starting point our innate sense of location, exhibition is largely structured around Carter’s Beaumont series. Thirteen, (out of fourteen) of these paintings are to be shown, complemented by twelve others. The Beaumont canvases are to be exhibited, and seen, in a specific arrangement – one directed by the artist – and not necessarily the sequence in which they were painted, or finished. Initially, Carter did attempt to position the paintings chronologically, but decided that they made more sense presented in the order their subjects appeared in the landscape. The landscape in question is proximal to Carter’s home, namely Hamford water and the area around Beaumont quay, just beyond Landermere, Essex. This is an area rich in art historical associations: Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson worked on many of their early collaborations in the mid 1950s and more recently the painter Luke Elwes has used Landermere as a base for his abstracted meditations on water and reflections.
Carter commenced work on the Beaumont paintings in November 2014, making numerous drawings and A1 colour studies by way of research. This series is sized consistently, all measuring 100 x 120 cm. They are painted in a bright range of colour, using expressive, expansive brushstrokes in acrylic. As aforementioned, thirteen Beaumonts will be complemented by twelve others, of various sizes and shapes. The entire set of paintings are bound conceptually together through the use of generous and varied colour and by the thematic focus on the landscape. Essex Coast, Seawall (2014) and Beaumont, Middle Sluice Low Tide (2015-16) are particularly colourful highlights.
Although Carter’s process starts with him drawing in front of the scene, his crucial moment of creativity arrives with time spent back at the studio, studying and considering his en plein air drawings and preparatory paintings. Carter himself states: ‘It is only back in the studio that I can see whether there is anything of interest or use in the day’s drawings’. His feverous studying and analysing of his own work must account for the almost numinously poetic quality which emerges from viewing these wonderful pieces.
Carter wishes the beholder to regard his paintings as both landscapes and abstracts. Perhaps this is a view which can be extended outwards, towards the very landscape upon which he is looking; not just fields, estuaries, tractor tracks or fleeting trains but abstract paintings in the manner of Mark Rothko. Similar to this Colour Field Expressionist, through his work Carter suggests that we take too much for granted and too often judge on appearance. Rarely do we, twenty-first century humans, try to probe deeper, investigate meaning or read into the existence of features in a landscape. Located, perhaps, in the resonance between the loosely geometric composition, the dynamism of the brushwork and the exotic hues, is the spiritual component of Carter’s work; mandalas in acrylic paint which vibrate and demand attention. It is possible to get lost in their surfaces.
Carter’s fascination with his surrounding natural landscape echoes our own pre-occupation with the environs surrounding Messums Wiltshire. Irrespective of specific location, there is something universal about Carter’s paintings which will reverberate especially for all those who turn to the natural world for inspiration and creative purpose.
Simon Carter was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex in 1961. He studied at Colchester Institute (1980-81) and then at North East London Polytechnic (1981-84). He was Artist in Residence at the University of Essex, Cuckoo Farm Studios and Firstsite, Colchester and has undertaken numerous curatorial projects, most recently at Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery and Brentwood Cathedral in Essex. Carter is represented, internationally, by Messum’s.
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