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Rebecca Salter’s meditative works create space for thought

PUBLISHED: 11:00 10 June 2015

AH5 2015 by Rebecca Salter. Photo: FXP Photography, 2014

AH5 2015 by Rebecca Salter. Photo: FXP Photography, 2014

Photograph: FXP Photography, 2014

A new Kentish Town exhibition show how the artist’s works can almost “slow down time”, says Alison Oldham.

No reproduction of Rebecca Salter’s exquisite, meditative artworks could convey what it is like to be in their presence.

It is as though they exude calm and slow down time. Primrose Hill art historian Anna Moszynska cites this phenomenon in a perceptive essay for Salter’s exhibition of works on paper Along These Lines at the Beardsmore Gallery in Kentish Town.

She links Salter’s late work with Agnes Martin’s – the American minimalist abstract painter whose exhibition opened yesterday at Tate Modern.

Moszynska says that both create a space for thought, as described by the writer Pico Iyer: “Silence is more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands.”

The key elements of this magic are simple: paper, watercolour, ink and light. But the skill and the learning behind Salter’s mark-making are far from simple.

She spent six years in Japan, absorbing influences and techniques, including calligraphy, and the paper she often uses is Japanese – washi.

It is tougher than wood-pulped paper and withstands being worked on both sides. Its translucency allows traces of marks on one side to be visible on the other.

Moszynska’s essay gives insights into Salter’s process, describing how she partially scrapes a dried paste of gesso from thick Banks Cream paper with strong arcing movements of a Stanley knife, and also into its context: “While such abrading or attacking the paper may evoke memories of the work of western avant-garde artists, the use of sumi ink to create the intricate repeated marks that pattern the surface of her work in astonishingly varied casts of black, shows a distinctly Japanese approach.”

Salter, whose studio is in Crouch Hill, was elected to the Royal Academy in December and has work in next week’s RA Summer Exhibition.

Along These Lines runs until June 20 at the Beardsmore Gallery, 20-24 Prince of Wales Road NW5, Tues to Sat 11am to 5pm. Visit beardsmoregallery.com

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