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Paul Carter

Artist

Born: 4 March, 1970, in Edinburgh.

Died: 12 August, 2006, in Edinburgh, aged 36.

PAUL Carter was an important contemporary Scottish artist, and an inspiration both to his peers and his students at Edinburgh College of Art, where he lectured in sculpture from 1997.

Carter's work was haunted by a sense of lost idealism, and the end of the hippie dream, and bore the scars of growing up as a sensitive child in the nuclear cold war climate of 1970s Britain. A recurring theme in his work is the home-made nuclear shelter as described in the preposterous guide to surviving a nuclear holocaust using common household objects that the British government published in 1976 under the title Protect and Survive. Various rudimentary structures of Arte Povera-like bunkers make from old doors, pillows, suitcases, and rolled up carpets run as a motif in a number of his installations from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.

With a life-long love for the music and idealism of the 1960s counterculture, Carter's body of work continually attempted to demystify contemporary art by connecting it to the culture of rock 'n' roll, and at the same time resurrect serious existential questions of peace and love, idealism, politics and God.

He summed up his commitment to these concerns in a major public art project from 2001 created in collaboration with local teenagers in the Royston area of Glasgow. In this major work, The Royston Spire Transceiver Project, Carter gathered questions for God from local people and set up a powerful radio transmitter on the local church spire to send the questions beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space. He also installed a radio receiver on the spire connected to a green light - so in the event of an answer ever being received from God, the spire will illuminate with a green light. The piece still stands as a poignant elegy to Man's aloneness in the universe.

In a sense, this work in particular sums up Paul Carter's character as an artist and as a man - part mad scientist, part agnostic theologian, part hippie dreamer. He is fondly remember by his students at Edinburgh College of Art as a lecturer who approached teaching with an open mind- just as likely to exchange mix-CDs of inspiring rock 'n' roll music with his students as to refer them to the modern masters in the books in the college library. As both an artist and a teacher, he had a unique ability to eschew hierarchies and to regard all things as connected in the search for knowledge.

Throughout his life, he maintained a vigorous interest in physics - inspired by his father Kenneth Carter, a physicist (and also, interestingly given the fervour of Carter's agnosticism, a Church of Scotland missionary worker).

Born in Edinburgh, Carter grew up in the Newton Mearns area of Glasgow, and Egypt, and graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with 1st class honours in sculpture in 1993. He took a masters in fine art at Glasgow School of Art from 1993-5 and in the mid-1990s was one of the few figures who linked the blossoming contemporary art scene in Glasgow with the largely sleepy contemporary art scene in Edinburgh. In 1994, he participated in the ambitious Scottish Arts Council-funded "Aerial Project" in Edinburgh - one of the few exhibitions in the 1990s where young Edinburgh and Glasgow artists exhibited together.

In 1997, he returned to Edinburgh and took up a teaching post at the College of Art, and for the remaining nine years he was an active figure in both the Collective Gallery and the Embassy - two extremely influential galleries which have helped return Edinburgh to a position of significance in the landscape of contemporary British art.

He had significant solo exhibitions at the Collective Gallery in 1998, the Fruitmarket Gallery in 2003, and the Embassy Gallery in 2006. The Fruitmarket Gallery published a monograph of his work in 2003, titled Bend Sinister (ISBN 0 947912 68 1), and in 2005 he was one of the new generation invited artists in the RSA Festival Connections exhibition.

He will be remembered as an artist whose work opened up the sometimes narrow critical discourse of post-conceptual art in Scotland in the 1990s to questions of science, spirituality, politics and God.

His untimely death in a tragic car accident on 12 August leaves bereaved his beloved wife Kate Gray - an artist, artistic collaborator and devoted friend - three sons, Blake, Oscar, and Logan, his parents, Kenneth and Rosamund, and his friends and colleagues at Edinburgh College of Art.

• Robert Montgomery is an artist and publisher of Dazed&Confused magazine.

 
 
 

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