Friday, 23 October 2009


Clare Carter was born in Yorkshire in 1980. Her work as an artist ranges across disciplines, with a focus on painting and composing music.

Since studying fine art, she has continued her painting practice with residencies across Europe, most recently working in a studio in Leeds. She also composes and performs music in The Horn The Hunt, a 2-piece electronic band. Carter is interested in different kinds of environment; her newest musical experiments are sound-scapes (or soundtracks for which the film waits to be written) exploring imaginary landscapes ‘that have an absence of people, places where the emotions are in the trees and plants and rocks.’

Introduction No.2 (Woman from the Old Upernavik), 2006, oil on board, 24 x 31cm

This sensitivity to landscape encompasses not just the pastoral idylls of the English Romantics but ‘inner and outer, physical and psychological, inhabited and uninhabited, rural and urban/domestic’. She is intrigued by ‘the pathways and entry points between these worlds, and how humans cope and adapt to different environments.’ She examines contemporary responses to Nature, and finds links between modern society and our primordial instincts. She is also fascinated by beliefs and practices that are less common now than in the past, particularly anthropomorphism.

It’s becoming clear why Carter might be interested in Inuit culture, but I asked how her three-month residency at Upernavik Museum in Greenland affected her work. She responded with a wonderful evocation of the landscape and the darkness.

Following Travels, 2009, oil & acrylic on canvas (diptych), 76 x 76cm each

‘I arrived in Upernavik completely shell-shocked by this unique and frightening environment. I couldn’t contemplate the vastness of the landscape and how I was supposed to communicate my feelings through painting. So I spent most of my time in Upernavik looking through photography books about north-west Greenland and the people of Upernavik, from the last century. Mainly black & white photos, some very old. These photographs of people and the landscape made a visual link between myself as a westerner and the brutal nature of Greenland. So I painted them, along with photographs I took of the museum exhibits at the ethnographical museum. This is where I began to understand my interest in taxidermy and illusion, the exhibit, the performance.

‘I think it’s the colonial mind – if we cannot understand what is new and different about other cultures we have to make small reconstructions or dioramas … as if by taking the exotic and putting it through our own fabricating process we can somehow begin to contemplate it’s reality – or the reality that we engaged with. It’s as if looking alone is not enough, we need these eyeglasses that help us digest the unknown and make it seem more familiar.

‘The Cave’ and 'Following Travels' explore the notion of putting things – experiences, landscapes – in a situation where they can be viewed as performance. ‘The Cave’ was made in Norway; it’s a modern cave painting. My husband sits at a desk in a flat making music. The unfamiliar and unexplored landscape fills the room and penetrates through so much that he is absorbed into it. The room and the landscape toy with each other for control of the stage.

‘For me, Greenland was the key to unlocking all these ideas that had been with me since my childhood days of building miniature landscapes on shelves in my bedroom. The darkness (we spent 6 weeks of our 3 month stay in perpetual night) and the extreme landscape we experienced were a life-changing and questioning process that will forever stay with us.

‘The hardest and most unusual experience about living in the darkness is that you have no view, no way of projecting emotions outwards. There is no landscape to absorb or give perspective on existence, except that of the domestic space. So everything becomes internal. It’s like being in a cell – you know there’s space and life outside but you have no visual access to it. The only visuals are man-made: the electric light illuminating a path; lamps glowing inside a living room; the television projecting scenes from places with daylight. In a sense, everything becomes imaginary, an illusion – or if not an illusion, a human fabrication of ‘day’ in a nocturnal world.’

The Cave, 2008, oil & acrylic on canvas, 250 x 130cm

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