R E B E C C A S A L T E R
R e c e n t P a i n t i n g s
(Thursday) 2 4 M a r c h - (Saturday) 3 0 A p r i l 2 0 1 1
Reception for the artist : Thursday, 24 March, six to eight p.m.
Rebecca Salter, an artist born in 1955 and educated in southwestern England, made an unconventional decision upon completing her university studies to move to Japan in 1979 for a two-year stay - to study with an avant-garde ceramic artist in Kyoto, continuing her involvement in that medium. When informed of the unexpected death of her intended mentor two months before she was scheduled to depart for Japan, she forged ahead with the journey and was able to structure her own studies - remaining in Kyoto for six years. She immersed herself in Japanese life and culture [including mastering reading and writing Japanese] and even exhibited her works with some regularity, gaining a reputation in Kyoto.
In l98l, she stopped working in the medium of clay, wanting to eliminate the aspect of chance inherent in making kiln-fired works. This is one of many examples of her invoking loss or decisive change [in her working environment, choice of working materials, etc.] as a regenerative procedure in invigorating or refocussing her work as an artist. She began working in two-dimensions in 1982, on a paper support with drawings and woodblock prints. Having renounced her lengthy commitment to clay as her principal medium, while retaining her ingrained aversion to becoming part of a political or aesthetic movement or group of like-minded individuals, Salter was increasingly drawn to the traditional Japanese artistic practice in which seeking mastery of one's chosen craft through patient repetition and attention to detail is given primary importance [while eschewing the Western concept of the artist as creative genius]. Her self-declared possession since childhood of a "Protestant work ethic" was apparently happily absorbed in her warm acceptance of the Japanese emphasis on working diligently towards a mastery of craft.
While working in two dimensions, she became greatly interested in the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces in Japanese life and art, and in the fluidity of indoor spaces - in which moveable screens and modular floor panels facilitate reconfiguring space, in addition to allowing new vantage points both within a residential structure and between interiors and the outside world. The interrelationship of time and space also became a significant concern in her work. It is important to know that she continues to regard her works as "spaces and places" which she inhabits during the making process.
In 1985, Salter greatly challenged herself by leaving Kyoto [which had proved nurturing in a number of ways] to return to her native country - now a changed environment, with declining governmental support for the arts and increased exposure and critical attention given to the traditional mediums of paintings and sculpture [to the detriment of conceptually-oriented work] - with, however, the dominance of attention being claimed by male artists still very much in place. The move to a radically different physical environment [she worked for a period of time in the bedroom of a rented, basement apartment in a major urban area - London] forced her to re-imagine her identity as an artist. In the summer of 1988, she made her first visit to England's Lake District, which proved greatly inspiring, as it had been to so many major British writers and painters since the 18th century. She began an ongoing program of spending six days there in the autumn of each year, working directly from the landscape and filling a sketchbook with drawings - employing a remarkably imaginative and ever-expanding range of tools and instruments to record her responses to the landscape and weather conditions, she constantly exerts herself "to keep the drawing alive". Once back in London, not only does she not employ these drawings as studies in making individual paintings, but also she never again even looks at them, preferring to have used them only as "a potent source of inspiration".
The forthcoming solo exhibition at Howard Scott Gallery [the artist's sixth one-person exhibition with the gallery] - of recent paintings in a range of relatively intimate scales - finds the artist honored by the recent opening of her first solo exhibition in a museum, actually two installations at Yale University's Yale Center for British Art [titled Into the light of things: Rebecca Salter, Works 1981 - 2010 ] and Yale University Art Gallery [titled Rebecca Salter and Japan], which will be installed in New Haven, Connecticut through May second of this year.