Diana Stevenson loves: John Salt
“Essentially concerned with the disintegration of the American motorcar, John has developed an exacting photorealist style that both reveals and denies the consolation of his subject matter.
“John Salt was raised in Birmingham, a car city, and was the first artist ever to show at Ikon when it opened in 1965. He was the grandson of a car body painter, so perhaps it was inevitable that he would turn to the automobile as the subject for his work.
“In the late 1960s, Salt moved from the West Midlands to Baltimore, and it was during this time in the US that he developed his interest in cars. His early car paintings were reproductions of the slick desirable images found in car sales brochures, magazines selling the American Dream. As he grew with this subject, the depth of field within his pictures expanded – eventually we see the car located within the world beyond, with exquisitely sharp northern American light.
“From detailed studies of car interiors, he turned his attention to abandoned vehicles and wreck yards, with interiors ripped and disintegrating, exteriors scratched and dented. The cars that promise so much in the advertisements end up in the graveyard, reflecting how all life is subject to the inexorable march of time.
“Salt has remained with his theme his whole life. He moved back to the UK in the late 1970s, settling near Ludlow in Shropshire. He works extremely slowly – one painting can take a year to complete. However, the preoccupation with the American car continues. His repeated revisiting of the same topic is a kind of meditation on the deceptive qualities of the material world as all things decay and perish with passage of time.”
Info: Diana Stevenson is Exhibitions Coordinator at Ikon. An exhibition of the work of John Salt takes place at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham between 4 May – 17 July 2011.
Image: John Salt, Pink Trailer with Plymouth, 1974. Courtesy of Wolverhampton Arts & Heritage. Purchased with assistance from the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund.
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