Beth Carter graduated from Sunderland University in 1995 with a degree in Fine Arts. Following this, she spent time travelling in Sri Lanka and India to pursue the practice and history of mythological and devotional figure-making.
Carter’s bronze sculptures reference the characters of the Hellenic and European pantheon, bringing them to life as brooding, mysterious protagonists, lifted into the contemporary everyday. They are conceptually and technically rich, meticulous and complex. The beasts morph human with animal form, her characteristic minotaur is given, for instance, the skill of reading, and he sits stooped, quietly and contemplative, reading his tiny gilded book. In their personification and re-situation into the contemporary world, Carter’s sculptures are at once other-worldly, haunting and strange, and then strangely familiar.
Beth Carter exhibits internationally and her work is in private collections across Europe, USA, Canada, South America, Asia and Australia, and in the permanent collections of the Musee d’Art Classique de Mougins, France and the Muskegon Museum of Art, Michigan.
“Working within the realms of a sculptural tradition where the symbolic use of animal imagery is a potent and continuous source, my work creates allegories by, amongst other things, integrating the human form with animal forms. The resulting imagery holds both a timeless significance and a contemporary relevance despite and because of our separation from the natural world. It is important for me that my sculpture and drawings are accessible on an individual level as well as implicating more archetypal themes common to human experience.”
1992-1995 BA (Hons) Fine Art. Sunderland University, UK
1993-1994 Placement at the Cyprus College of Art, Cyprus
Awards and Travel
2016 National Open Art Prize, South West Winner
2007-09 Travelled to Gambia, Kenya and Tanzania
2006 Two month Residency at Bronze Casting Foundry, in Guadalajara, Mexico
2004 Olympia Artfair, London (Individual Artist Award)
2002 Travelled and Worked in New Zealand (Womad: World of Music and Dance)
2000 South West Arts, UK, Individual Artist Award to produce new body of work
1997 Travel in Sri Lanka and India to study devotional/mythological sculpture
1996 Northern Arts, UK, Travel Award to Crete
1996 South West Arts, UK, Travel assistance grant
1995 Northern Graduates Show, The Royal College of Art, London (Awarded 1st Prize)
Beasts, Arusha, Edinburgh
There is no dark until something shines… , Hugo Galerie, Soho, NY, USA
London Art Fair, Stand G20, Beaux Arts Bath
Art In Doom (Springtime Group Exhibition), Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA
‘The Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts Bath
AAF Spring, Battersea, Stand C3, Beaux Arts Bath
London Art Fair Islington, Stand G20, Beaux Arts Bath
Winter Collective: M Fine Arts Galerie, Boston
Mixed Summer Exhibition, Beaux Arts Bath
Shadow Stories, Solo Show, LKFF Brussels
London Art Fair Islington, Stand G20, Beaux Arts Bath
Sawdust and Sequins: The Art of the Circus, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
Solo Exhibition, Beaux Arts Bath
Spike Island Open Studios, Bristol
Artists of Fame and Promise, Mixed Summer Show, Beaux Arts Bath
LAPADA, London, Beaux Arts Bath
NOA Competition, South West Prize Winner, Mercer’s Hall London
London Art Fair, Islington, London, Beaux Arts Bath
AAF Battersea, Beaux Arts Bath
Winter Collective Part I, Bertrand Delacroix Gallery, New York
The Shining Guest, View Art Gallery, Bristol
London Art Fair, Islington, London
Unnatural-Natural History, Royal West of England Academy
Shadowside, Blackall Studios, London
London Art Fair, Business Design Centre, London
Here and Now, View Art Gallery, Bristol
Darkness to Light, The Octagon Chapel, Bath
Art of Giving, Group Show and Charity Auction, Saatchi Gallery, London
Solo Show, Black Swan Arts, Frome
Chichester National, (Selected National Art Competition)
National Open Exhibition, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
Beauty and the Beast, Stourhead Gardens, National Trust / Arts Council England
Solo Show, Queens Street Gallery, Emsworth
Solo Show, Badcocks Gallery, Newlyn Cornwall
Olympia Artfair, London (Individual Artist Award)
148th Selected Open Autumn Exhibition, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
Spike Island Launch Exhibition, Bristol
Fabulous Beasts, Group Show, Hampshire Sculpture Trust, Hampshire
Northern Graduate Show
– The instincts are a far better protection than all the intellectual wisdom in the world. – C G Jung
Beth Carter’s world of sculpture and drawing features a cornucopia of dream-like, circus, or half man-half beast shape-shifters who, at their core embody the contrasts characterised in Robert Browning’s ‘dangerous edge of things’ – honest thieves, tenders murderers, superstitious atheists. A wolf appears to contemplate his kill pityingly, while a fox steals into the night with a pheasant, which on closer inspection he holds delicately, in human hands, the bird appearing potentially injured rather than ripe for the plucking.
Carl Jung talked about dream animals being frightening, or ‘minatory’; about how they would often appear to the subconscious engaging in strange behaviour or exaggerated in size. This he claimed was connected to how we deal with our instincts, our inner nature; about coping with our raison d’être. The human being it seems, reveals himself to be prone simultaneously to contradictory forces, accommodating the tendency to be both ‘goodie’ and ‘baddie’ in this chimeric hinterland.
Some of Beth’s sculptures, despite engendering intuitive, emotional or animal responses, take as their cue her own life experience. Particularly significant is the death in recent years of her artist father, a physically imposing, larger-than- life figure who was prone to depression. Looking at her minotaur creations, the largest of these is physically impressive, but with his head lowered he appears trapped in his own labyrinth, shorn of his power, rendered gentle. Another minotaur has his attention fixed in concentration on a moth cupped delicately in his hands. Beth describes how in a large chaotic family her father’s discovery of reading changed his life and helped him to be more contemplative.
In Man and Dog, though it is not the black dog of depression, the baleful figure’s closed eyes shrouded in gauze take on a pensive, inward demeanour. Like most of her standing figures, the stance is diffident, demur even. The dog is heavy, but the man’s head is bowed in acceptance of his fate as carrier, the little clown’s hat bringing a touch of pathos to the piece.
Figures which should carry threat are often disarmed by innocence. Standing Elephant depicts an adolescent boy’s lower body touching his pachyderm face self-consciously. Grinder’s Monkey seems less trickster and more a figure being comforted by his diminutive sidekick. Both monkey and elephant stand, as with Man and Dog, awkwardly, as if embarrassed by their very presence. The Frink-like Boxer has his head uncharacteristically raised (most figures look bashfully downward) though this seems only to emphasise that he may have taken a battering. His fighting days are surely numbered.
It is a notable irony that the smallest sculpture in the show wears a crown, and looks optimistically out towards the sunny uplands. The little guy is king. This is a typically oxymoronic trope, an elision of contrasting ideas that invites further consideration. Indeed the choice of animals is itself significant, the monkey and elephant with their highly developed intelligence calling to mind the gods Hanuman and Ganesh; or indeed the dogs, horses and bulls, which we can also in our global village spot as emissaries to the after-life, depicted on ancient walls from Lhasa or Luxor. The animist symbolism runs deep. These messengers, amid ill-fitting hats and masks and tassels, are somehow familiar to us, and part of the fun of considering their import is figuring out why. Or as Yeats put it, The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.
July 2015, Catalogue Essay