Rebecca Salter

H2, 1992

mixed media on canvas

122 x 183 cm


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Artwork
Description

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Salter’s practice aims to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western culture. Her works are a successful fusion of aspects of these two apparently far away artistic traditions. On the one hand, the Zen inspired quiet contemplation to which her works invite is a typically Eastern trait. On the other hand, however, this quality is mediated by a Western, ego-referred sensitivity, manifest in the proportions of the elements on the canvases –  which usually take the artist’s height and frequency of breadth as points of reference –  as well as in the reminiscences of Western artistic experiences, like those of Romantic painters, of the American artist Mark Tobey, and of the Beats poets, who used to randomly cut and reassemble their poems in new compositions.

Untitled H2 makes no exception. In accordance with the Eastern concept of elaborated simplicity, this apparently sombre work is in reality a product of extensive labour. Salter first created a painting on canvas using a soft palette and occasionally scratched its surface. She then cut it into dozens of squares and finally rearranged the diced fragments onto a new canvas, following a new disposition. Although chiefly interested in the unassuming and the everyday, Salter is not immune to the grand displays of natural forces. Indeed, the inspiration for this series of works came with her first trip to the turbulent landscape of the Lake District, one of the favourite sources of inspiration for British Romantic artists like Turner, Coleridge and Wordsworth.

About
the artist

Rebecca Salter (British, b.1955) was elected Royal Academician in 2014 and Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools in 2017. She lives and works in London.

In the 1970s, after graduating from the Bristol Polytechnic as a ceramicist, Salter moved to Japan to study at the Kyoto City University of the Arts. There, far from home, Salter struggled to integrate herself with the rest of the student and artist community: she had to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers first. She spent six years in the country, putting herself, her practice and Western history of art into question before deciding it was time to go back home to the United Kingdom.

The result of such a journey of (re)discovery is her incredibly beautiful and distinctive abstract work on canvas and paper. Found at the intersection between Western and Japanese traditions, her practice seeks to bridge a gap between two fundamentally different conceptions of art. In her paintings and drawings, Salter applies notions of mark-making that, traditionally, pertain to calligraphy; the distinction between front and back of the canvas disappears, as the artist focuses on creating an object existing in space, rather than a painted surface; she revisits the great Romantic tradition of landscape and weather painting, through the use of the line, rather than colour.

Salter’s works are heavily detailed minimal abstractions, particular emphasis is given to the interplay between marked and unmarked space on the canvas. The presence of white space is a critical trait of Salter’s work and reveals the relationship the artist has with the concerns of the Hasegawa School of painting. Salter often cites Hasegawa’s Pine Trees as a highly important work for her own practice. The layering of neutral tones often suffuses the work with an ethereal quality, the muted colours offering a tranquil, yet spellbinding, response to nature. Frequently, the use of vertical and horizontal planes structures the work: one is invited to draw from the abstractions a sense of landscape and depth.

Her works can be viewed as obsessive, meditative, delicate, or forceful but they are all, ultimately, bewitching.

Salter has also had a number of architectural commissions, which include both Guy’s Hospital and St George’s Hospital. She has been an artist in residence at Lofoten in Norway and Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Connecticut. In 2011, Salter had a major retrospective at the Yale Center for British Art: into the light of things 1981-2010.


Salter’s works are heavily detailed minimal abstractions, particular emphasis is given to the interplay between marked and unmarked space on the canvas. The layering of neutral tones often suffuses the work with an ethereal quality, the muted colours offering a tranquil, yet spellbinding, response to nature.


Rebecca Salter
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition

May 3rd, 2017 until
August 4th, 2017
Curated by ARTUNER