Friday, 14 February 2014

Following John Constable; Simon Carter - Essex Artist

This piece has been regurgitated three times so far. It first appeared in 'The Wilful Walks of Russell Duffy,' a series of posts that appeared on this blog. It then re-surfaced, largely re-written, on 'Something For the Weekend, Sir' about two years ago. This latest  re-write follows fellow author Lorna Wood's suggestion that I submit some of my art posts to an American magazine. This is it...

Anglia is a region south-east of England. It is there where the Angles, those West German tribesmen invaded and settled. Two of that region's counties are Suffolk and Essex. The former sits north of the latter with the River Stour dividing the two. On the border lies the tiny village of Dedham.

The first thing you notice, even before you enter the quaint old English town of Dedham with its array of picturesque houses and aging pubs, is its association with the river Stour that runs through it. It is the Stour that links us neatly, not just to Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, for that is where the Stour threads its ceaseless route, but also to the famed artist John Constable. It was along the Stour that Constable, with his wondrous gift, and some liberal imagination, painted his now legendary works of art.

Dedham is as close as you can get, while still being in Essex, to the neighbouring county of Suffolk. Obviously, Constable must have loved the area as it was from here that he would walk and wander looking, researching before finally settling down with paintbrush and easel to paint those fantastic images he is now remembered for.


'Dedham Vale' by John Constable

The detail of his work is crystalline and sharp. Each leaf, every single blade of grass has life breathed into it. His perspective is perfect, his colours remarkable.
Constable is not the only artist to capture the beauty of the region. There is also contemporary artist Simon Carter.

Apart from my liking his work, I know little of Essex-born artist Simon Carter. What I do know is this: he was born in North Essex where he still lives, in 1961. His paintings are nearly always of that lovely stretch of coast that shimmers around Walton-on-the-Naze and Frinton but also feature the area once trod by John Constable.

For me, Simon’s creations are similar to the work of William Burroughs. Where the author took words and sentences and then cut them up into fragmented parts so that when to read you get a sense of seeing things on the periphery, as though words flash by and the mind reorganizes them into solid meaning, so does Simon when he uses shapes and colors in bold blocks. The image seen is not figurative as such nor expressionist but something between the two. It is perhaps peripheral suggestive.



'Willy Lots House' by Simon Carter



'Figure and Sea' by Simon Carter

“I live on the east coast. Each day I make drawings about things happening in the landscape; often returning to the same places for months at a time, sometimes just walking and seeing what happens. I use these drawings in the studio to improvise and rehearse possible ways to turn observation into painting. I look for things in the drawings that seem true, alive and unexpected. I want the paintings to be direct and honest; to have the weight of an observed fact and the passion of something meant; but there is little point repeating things or making things that already exist so I aim for those moments of revelation and surprise when the thing on the studio wall assumes a life of its own.” – Simon Carter


'The Witches House' by Simon Carter

'Quay House 2' by Simon Carter

I find Simon Carter’s work electrifying. It strikes me as having elements of impressionism and the abstract. His colours are vibrant and a wonderful depiction of the Essex/Suffolk where he works. He has this almost na├»ve  way of daubing paint so that it has a bold and decisive feel to it, solid yet fluid, very different to Constable who used subtle tones of delicate color to create his images. Metaphorically he rearranges the real world into symbolic shapes that suggest the feeling gained when seeing the reality.

The works are multi-layered and considered. There is enormous energy that gives a sense of physicality. They are buoyant and alive and give back to the viewer the hidden depths of the region – the shapes and shadows cast.


'After Constable' by Simon Carter

“I started using acrylic in about 1995 I think. I was looking for a quicker way to layer up the painting and thought I might make a start in acrylic and then work on top in oil; up to then I had used oil. I like it because it’s very forgiving; there are almost no structural rules, you can use thin on thick, you can scrape it back and it’s all dry in half an hour. The things I don’t like are the slight deadness to the colour sometimes but I am learning to work around that, and sometimes I’d like to scrape back something but I’m too late and it has dried.” – Simon Carter

Landscapes have been overlooked in recent years as modernism took center stage. Personally, I think there is room for both. Besides, what on earth is wrong with depicting the world that surrounds us?

It is an oft-repeated phrase of mine used whenever I see art I like but notwithstanding still remains true - I would be delighted to hang this man’s work on my wall.

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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