The exhibition will cover nearly fifty years of Charlton’s practice and is presented in tandem with A Arte Invernizzi Gallery, Milan.
Alan Charlton has, since the early 1970’s, painted purely grey, abstract paintings. The choice of grey paint stems from Charlton’s desire to use a “standard, industrial colour,” linking to the industrial landscape of his childhood in Sheffield, but also the emotive qualities of the colour. Grey evokes industry, modernity, melancholy, depression but equally tranquillity, calm and the absence of any colour at all. Unwavering from this rigorous format has allowed Charlton to indefatigably explore the formal qualities of the canvas and to remain free of representation, influence or interpretation.
Not only is the colour uniform; the thickness of the canvas support is the standard timber size of 4.5cm, deliberately evoking everyday materials. The spacing of each part of a work to another follows either of two constant rules: the depth of the stretcher (4.5 cm) or the width of the previous panel. The painting process is systematic; each layer of paint is applied carefully and then sanded, producing an almost velvety texture and a light-absorbing uniform surface.
It is not surprising that Charlton’s daily approach to painting is regular; working at the same time in his studio every day, as one might approach a ‘regular job’. The installation of the work is carefully selected by the artist, deliberately controlling the viewer’s experience of the work. Charlton’s paintings allow the viewer to take stock and consider the space around the painting as well as the painting itself. The immaculate surfaces of grey are interrupted by form, and rhythm is generated by repetition. The paintings change the viewer’s relationship to their surrounding architecture, highlighting the areas within, between and around the artwork.
Charlton’s work came about in an environment of twentieth-century abstraction and rejection of figuration, however, it has maintained - throughout ensuing years - a rigorous exploration of form and colour that exists in its own realm and follows its own rules. The results, however, are far from insular. As Barry Barker states in his catalogue essay: “Charlton does not endeavour to produce what might be described as “Modern art” but makes art that exists in the present time; as part of the modern world.”
This exhibition explores various stages of Charlton’s career to date and is accompanied by a comprehensive book looking at archival material, museum and gallery exhibitions. The bilingual monograph is published in collaboration with the gallery A Arte Invernizzi, with an essay by Antonella Soldaini, texts by Barry Barker and Emile Charlton.