Extract from an interview with Stephen Carter by David Barrett 2005.
SC All the spaces in these new motorway paintings are places that I cut through travelling between my home and studio, which happen to be located on either side of this main road that leads out from London to Oxford and the west and to Wales. It’s a major trunk road, and I’m walking underneath looking up at the massive concrete blocks.
In a sense it is a modernist project: it represents the idea of easy access for city dwellers out to the pleasures of the country; and similarly for country dwellers to access the culture and wonderful things of the city. So it’s an optimistic project.But at the same time, for those that are left pottering about underneath, like me, we’re apt to be smelling urine and seeing garbage. It’s dirty and the spaces are very often spaces that people avoid, even though they’re in the inner city.
DB Would you like to say something about concrete?
SC Yes. Concrete – which as a term has an interesting painting parallel – holds within it the possibility of marks, stains or traces. So whilst, again, it holds within its substance this idea of modernity and mass-production, at the same time it has the capacity to weather and become marked. For example, an oil spill on the road above will be registered in the concrete underneath.
DB The paintings themselves are quite concrete, quite substantial, compared to previous series.
SC They are and they aren’t. There’s a paradox here because they are very thinly painted. I’m interested in capturing the monumentality and solidity of the space, but the paintings are not that in themselves; they’re just filmy layers of paint on the surface
DB The paint dribbles both up and down, with seemingly no regard to gravity
SC I paint them at all different angles but, yes, the apparent lack of weight of the paint is a deliberate, inverse reference to the substantiality of the subject. And it does refer to the stains on the concrete, but by using a parallel from the practice of painting rather than through mimicking a particular detail on the structure…