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Maclise Road South

Stephen Carter

‘Maclise Road South’


(40.5 x 40.5 cms  Acrylic on Canvas 2017-18)


I was walking around the area near to Olympia in Kensington, West London in September 2017 around dusk. On this occasion I was actively looking out for something, but quite what – I didn’t know, something that could feed into my painting. I took a few pictures with my smart phone – one of which turns out to provide the basis for the painting ‘Maclise Road South’.

The photo was printed out as a cheap black and white A4 print in landscape format. It shows Entrance P3 to the Olympia Multi-Storey car park.

The painting is cropped very differently to the source photograph. What is excluded through the cropping from the rectangle to the square – I find interesting – on the left side the front of a white car with headlights on, advancing from left to right and to the right on the pavement, going from right to left a female pedestrian and a pram. Also missing from the final painting are a bunch of signs such as a sign reading ‘Private Car Park’.

The painting went through quite a few changes – probably the most radical one being a closing up on the subject, along with the decision to bisect horizontally so that the lower half of the painting ends up being a not-uniform dark grey. To say that the grey rectangle represents something (like the road) is probably not quite right – rather it is standing in for something. The painting and the paint areas are not autonomous or self-referential, but neither are they representational.

I don’t see the painting as an abstraction, but it does move away from literal representation to the point where the viewer could equally well believe that the spaces shown belong to a completely different realm – a realm of the imagination – of the dream – of the model. I think the title of the work ‘Maclise Road South’ pulls the viewer back to a place and a vantage point in the ‘real’ world, the everyday verifiable urban environment – some known, familiar, unknown or unnoticed niche of London.

What we know about the function of a space – a tunnel for vehicles to pass through for instance gets put aside in favour of the opportunity to reflect on the flavour or the ambience of the space. This can be ambivalent - simultaneously inviting and threatening; revealing and concealing.

‘Maclise Road South’ relates strongly to other paintings and drawings I have made recently that refer to openings or portals (such as ‘Castle Baynard Street East’) those threshold spaces that lead from one space to another and where the space beyond remains mysterious. In turn it also relates to work I made around 2007 – 2009 (such as ‘Paddington Column East’) – that focus on temporary structures in artificially lit spaces and that generate a sense of the uncanny in the everyday urban experience.