Paul Carter 4 March 1970-12 August 2006
An appreciation of the Edinburgh-based artist Paul Carter, who has died aged 36, by his friends Sarah Munro and Billy McCall.
It was with deep sorrow that we heard on 12 August of the death of artist and dear friend Paul Carter, in a tragic accident. Paul encapsulated all that was dynamic and progressive in the visual arts in Scotland, providing an inspirational catalyst within Edinburgh’s burgeoning art scene. His short career as an artist and lecturer saw him exhibiting in many cities throughout Europe, in Japan and Canada as well as across the UK.
Brought up in Glasgow, Paul moved to Edinburgh to study Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art in 1990 and quickly became friends with some of the most influential students at that time, taking part in projects like Aerial 94. After completing his MFA at Glasgow School of Art in 1995 he returned to Edinburgh with his wife-to-be, Kate Gray, and quickly became a pivotal member of the arts community.
Featuring in many exhibitions in Scotland at Transmission, Generator, Changing Room, Travelling Gallery, Artm, City Art Centre and Collective Gallery where he had his first significant solo show The Modern Babylon in 1998, it was at an exhibition he curated in conjunction with the Collective at Speel in Holland that Paul first used music in his work to bring out issues relating to theology. ‘Heaven holds a place for . . .’ (Simon and Garfunkel) could be heard on a scratched record repeating throughout the gallery: his theories on religion and its relationship to popular music were beginning to crystallise.
He was beginning to cement a reputation for having an inquiring mind and an irrepressible voice. In each of these voices, a fusion of fact and fiction was carried through the identity of the artist Paul Carter. Characters developed: the radio ham attempting to tune into god; the survivalist who had escaped from modern living. The 90s dance music enthusiast holed up in a breeze block bunker. The biologist cast adrift on a raft with an allotment intending to protect natural specimens. Each one embodied an outsider spirit, a disident voice, questioning god and man in equal measure.
Paul’s energy and drive, focusing around issues of politics, philosophy and theology, fused with popular music and a love of the DIY aesthetic, created a brashness and a directness in dealing with big issues in a down to earth manner. In 2003 he was commissioned to create new work for the Fruitmarket Gallery’s Visions of the Future VI exhibition, a series of exhibitions highlighting Scotland’s artistic future. For Paul, the gap between the banal and the mythic, between circumstance and aspiration, between the humdrum and the utopian is where his work operated.
In 1997 he had secured a teaching post at Edinburgh College of Art in the sculpture department, under his former tutor Jake Harvey. It was here that Paul found a new audience that could match his spirit and enthusiasm and he revelled in the challenge of exploding the minds of those eager to take the same trip that he was on. He would spend hours preparing work for his students and would often relay their debates with a genuine enthusiasm and commitment. He never tired of his support for younger artists. His invitation to show at Embassy Gallery in 2006 was testament to the regard a new generation of artists held for him.
Paul’s belief that ‘Yes is the answer’ will never leave us.
He is survived by his wife Kate and sons Blake, Oscar and Logan.
Sarah Munro is director of the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh. Billy McCall is an artist.