john carter in conversation with klaus staudt

“for each object carter sets up a mathematical or geometric system” writes britta buhlmann in 1995. simple rules are laid out as guiding parameters for the process of creating a new object. “what would happen if...?” is mel goodings interpretation of this, john carter's agenda and it is what the artist and klaus staudt are discussing in the following. a conversation transcribed on the occasion of john carters first solo presentation “on the continent” at edition & galerie hoffmann in 1990.

it was the same as the area which had been cut out from the centre of the square. there was no waste! everything which was in the negative area had become the sides. the square thus became a plane floating off the wall.

klaus staudt: john, i have been looking at your objects, your reliefs, and your drawings. they are very interesting and there are some questions i would like to ask you about them. to start with, can you say something about the concepts behind your work. how, for instance, do you find the structure and spaces, also the positive and negative forms which we see in your wall-pieces?

john carter: in some of the earlier works in this exhibition for example the small sculpture (see fig. 1), i used a concept of negative and positive spaces calculated exactly in terms of area. this produced some surprising results. it is hard to believe, that the inner square is the same area as the thin band around it, but this is in fact the case. i made a work, (see fig. 2) which is flatter and more of a painting. here you have three shapes, all of which have the same area, one is placed over the other two at exactly the halfway point. it obscures half the area from one shape and half from the other. another work from this period (see fig. 3) was a square which contained four inner shapes, each of these were of the same area, they may be 400 square centimetres, but each shape was a different rectangle.

these four shapes together added up to the area of the negative shape and was of an exact equation of spaces and forms. the depth of this work was made by a plane, which moved back to meet the wall. this was the same as the area which had been cut out from the centre of the square. there was no waste! everything which was in the negative area had become the sides. the square thus became a plane floating off the wall. the same procedure was used in "corner – equal areas and spaces 1985" (see fig. 4).

in 1979 i made a group of works entitled "frames" (see fig. 5 & 6). these made strong use of empty or negative shapes. i hoped these shapes would have a power, equivalent to the frame, which contained them. they made the empty shape tangible. these works were in opposite pairs, in which apparent similarities were contrasted. in another work exhibited here (see fig. 7), the very small holes seem to have a visual power which is as strong as the plane into which they are cut.

you can read this work (see fig. 7) in two ways, either as bands with holes in between them, or as a square with apparently random holes. another aspect of this work, which i like, is that the holes are "sculpture": they are three dimensional and yet they have a graphic effect. when you first see the work these appear to be painted marks, then as you move closer you realize that they are real holes.

klaus staudt: can you say something about the connection between the form and the thickness of your wall-pieces?

john carter: this is a very good question, because it's an area in which i have a lot of doubts and problems. the most normal pattern for determining the thickness of a work is to make the width of the element which is being used the same as the thickness. if i am using a column-like form (see fig. 8) i will make it as thick as it is wide. now in other instances i might find that this is too thick and it makes the form too heavy. if i find this happening i will change to another system. i may make the thickness half of the width, or as in "untitled theme: progression ii 1987" (see fig. 7) a golden section was used to determine the thickness. i began the "pierced blue square" by using the width of the concealed bands as the thickness of the piece, but then found that i had a work which was much too massive. so in the process of working i changed the idea: (something which i normally avoid) and made a plane which floated in front of the wall. the remaining section behind then formed a block in which the holes were contained.

klaus staudt: the impression, that the planes are floating, is very interesting, because you cannot analyse the position of them. they come forward and go back and go back and come forward. they are really floating. they have different positions in relation to the wall. it is an irritation, an optical irritation. do you want this irritation to occur in your work?

john carter: i think i would use the word disturbance, rather then irritation: irritation is something that makes you angry, a disturbance is something more gentle. in "double frame ii" i used squares and parallelograms to create these very subtle angles. i think that this touches on one of the most important aspects of my work, the idea of a stable form in conjunction with one which is very slightly disturbed. set at an angle, perhaps. you are not quite certain what has happened, but you are aware that what you are looking at is not an absolutely regular situation and that some disruption, some disturbance, perhaps very slight is taking place. i think this is something which attracts the spectator's attention and draws him into a dialogue with the work.