Derek Carruthers (1935-2021)

Artist’s statement.

I was born in Penrith, Cumbria. My art master, Bill Rickaby, was a graduate of the Art School of King’s College, Durham University (now Newcastle University). He encouraged me to apply and in 1954 Victor Pasmore was appointed Master of Painting and our first year show was held at the Hatton Gallery. Victor selected a small group of students, who had shown an interest in abstract work, to study together in the same studio (Room 2) next to his. It was here that the elements of what became known as ‘basic design’ were thrashed out while we students were left to work on our own ideas. I found Victor’s influence very strong and it began a twenty year period of Constructivist and Abstract work which was first shown with the Young Contemporaries and The London Group.

My work at this time took the form of mobile constructions and the LCC commissioned me to design one for Risinghill School (sadly thought to be too dangerous, though they bought the maquette!). I showed with the AIA Gallery, ‘The Geometric Environment’: the Arts Council ‘Construction England’: the Welsh Arts Council exhibition, ‘Structure’: the Grosvenor Gallery, ‘Experiments in Form’: Camden Arts Centre, ‘New Experiments’: Laing Art Gallery, ‘Northern Sculptors’: the John Moores exhibition, Liverpool (a relief now in the Leeds City Art Gallery) and at the Cambridge Arts Council exhibition, ‘Painting becomes Sculpture’. I also had two one man shows at the Drian Gallery, London.

In 1973 I was appointed Head of Fine Art at Nottingham Trent. My interests were beginning to move away from the restrictions of formal constructivism/abstraction and I produced a series of reliefs, collectively called ‘ARTISAN’, in which both the defining and the making of art were considered. These were exhibited at the University Gallery, Nottingham and at Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal in 1979/80. In 1982 an exhibition of paintings was shown at the Showroom Gallery in London in 1988 and later that same year I accepted early retirement as Emeritus Professor of Fine Art at Nottingham Trent in order to concentrate full time on painting.

Early interest in ‘audience involvement’ was inherent in the moveable elements of my original mobiles/constructions and this continued in parallel with the lay figure compositions which I began to show first in Nottingham, and subsequently at the Royal Festival Hall and at the Groucho Club in 1997, followed by ‘Figurative Constructions’ at the Islington Arts Factory in 2002.

The lay figures in my paintings should be seen as symbols or metaphors of the human condition, their neutrality – faceless, ageless and without race, gender or colour – attracted me, and recently lead to a one man show at the Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham in 2019. My experience as an abstract artist underlies my paintings with figures and offers continuous possibilities for the foreseeable future.

Derek Carruthers, 2020

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