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EXHIBITION

REVIEW

Rebecca Salter: Bliss of Solitude At the Beardsmore Gallery, 22-24 Prince of Wales Road, London NW5, until 2 December

The title of Rebecca Salter's latest exhibition comes from the closing lines of Wordsworth's well-known Daffodils: 'They ash upon that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude.'

The reective nature of this poem is shared by the artist, showing here a wide range of work, both in scale and material.

From drawing to painting and in-between, it's all in the Japanese tradition of using water-based pigment that allows for a unifying bond between surface and base. A drawing such as JJ25 exploits the different absorbencies of joined papers to introduce the element of speed in the different line quality and rhythm.

Subdivision, real or implied, is a continuing strategy, allowing a variety of interpretations: some may discern landscape traces, for example, in the autumnal browns of HH29.

But this artist's inward eye reects the formative experience of living and working on the other side of Wordsworth's world. As well as mastering the technique of Japanese woodblock printing, demonstrated here in an exquisite set on Mino paper, Salter is the author of a standard text on the subject and of a comprehensive study, Japanese Popular Prints (both published by A C Black). The density of image in these tightly packed prints finds a sublimated echo in a larger painting such as HH14.

Often a deliberately savage base colour is applied, to be tamed by partial removal, with layer upon layer of colour in turn scratched away so that only a shadow remains. This labour-intensive method pushes the linen substrate near to breaking point, yet its resolution exudes an almost mesmeric calm. The stratified residues of removed pigment, retained in Salter's studio, are testament to the depth and subtlety of the final colouration.

There is a line of development here from Mark Tobey's post-war paintings with their so-called 'white writing'.

Likewise derived from Oriental calligraphy, they're sometimes thought to have been an inuence on Jackson Pollock.

But both Tobey's and Pollock's methods point up the fundamentally different technique that (says Salter) derives from such undervalued 'women's work' as weaving; especially since her recent residence at the Albers Foundation.

Accompanying the show is a fine catalogue designed by Geoffrey Winston, with a perceptive essay by Anna Moszynska; a photo on the inside cover, showing the artist at work, indicates the effort involved. Meanwhile, the enigmatic cover itself seems a reference to Tanizaki Junichiro's In Praise of Shadows. This and other photographs of the studio point to that particular sense of space that Werner Blazer, in his superb 1963 Structure and Form in Japan, describes as growing 'out of inner experience, out of a sensibility tutored by meditative concentration'.

David Wild is an architect in London and author of Fragments of Utopia: Collage Reections of Heroic Modernism

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