Rebecca Salter

KK62, 2007

mixed media on canvas

140 x 130 cm


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Artwork
Description

A ceramicist first, Rebecca Salter was encouraged by the Japanese approach to materials to transition to working with Japanese paper, then canvas. The artist’s paintings surpass the two-dimensional quality of a surface and are instead understood as objects, rather than painted surfaces. Careful lines inspire one to think of the meditative practice of calligraphy, harking to the artist’s years spent in Japan, whilst drawing attention to the interplay and distinction between marked and unmarked spaces. The painting exists as much in the absence of the marks as in its presence. This communication achieved by the white space is heavily influenced by eastern culture, where ‘empty’ space is not void, but instead full of potential. This compelling quality of the unmarked space, and the way the marked spaces seep through the permeable canvas, gives the artwork a pulling force that draws the space around it into and through itself. For Salter, the canvas is not only painted on or across, but the journey of the medium through the surface is vital in her understanding of painting that creates objects that hang in space. There is no central focus, instead, the whole creation is fluid and interlinked. Heavier horizontal lines are applied on the right, creating a gradient from dark to light, emblematic of Salter’s fascination with the Romantic tradition of landscape and weather painting, all the while achieving an ethereal quality that provides room for meditation and tranquility.

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

October 1st, 2018 until
November 9th, 2018
Curated by ARTUNER