Spotlight

Spotlight Abstract painter Jack Coulter

Championed by Charlie Minter
The Wick - Jack Coulter, True Colours II, courtesy of the artist.
Above  Jack Coulter, True Colours II, courtesy of the artist.
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The Wick - Portrait October London Studio (1) Colour, courtesy of the artist.
Above  Portrait October London Studio (1) Colour, courtesy of the artist.
Interview
Jack Coulter
07 December 2022
Interview
Jack Coulter
07 December 2022
A director within the Modern British Art department and head of Irish Art, Charlie Minter joined Sotheby’s back in 2009. Over the past decade he has been focusing increasingly on Irish art and even helped to reintroduce the auction house’s standalone Irish art sale in 2015. It was while searching for exciting new artists to include in the sale that a colleague pointed him in the direction of Belfast-born painter Jack Coulter.

Minter says: “As soon as I saw the work, I was struck by its visceral and vivid quality. Learning more about Jack and his work, the musical element was a fascinating – and immediately captivating – new dimension. His paintings are fully felt visual and audio experiences.”
Born with synesthesia, a neurological condition in which he experiences sound as colour, music is integral to Coulter’s practice. His paintings are often direct responses to songs he has heard and turn his multi-sensory inputs into large scale abstract expressionist paintings, often with intense colour and movement. The Financial Times has described him as one of the most popular abstract painters emerging today.

Coulter says: “As I react to sound in real-time, visually articulating the colours I’m experiencing is my main inspiration. It’s a never-ending realm of exploration and excitement. I live a very saturated life in colour.”

What impressed Minter most about Coulter was how he had built such an impressive career without gallery representation. At the age of 21, he became the youngest artist to be featured in the Arts Council Collection of Northern Ireland. He was included in Forbes’ ‘30 under 30’ for Arts and Culture in 2021, and his extensive musical collaborations include a musical painting of Glastonbury Festival’s entire 2016 line-up, and a commission to depict a track from Freddie Mercury’s Mr. Bad Guy album on canvas, which was subsequently exhibited in Bohemian Rhapsody: The Queen Exhibition in Seoul in 2018.

Minter says: “Here was definitely a talent on the rise. We debuted his first auction piece, ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ at Sotheby’s in November 2021 – it garnered widespread interest and competitive bidding, selling for nearly three times our low estimate.

“Following that success, the path was set for Jack to stage his first public exhibition at Sotheby’s. I remember seeing the works he’d created for the show in his London studio in the summer and knew we’d be presenting something special. And indeed, when they were displayed altogether in Sotheby’s galleries with the music that inspired each work playing on speakers for an immersive experience, it was a stunning show. There was a tangible atmosphere felt when walking into the space and seeing the response from visitors was great to see. Staging the exhibition and working with Jack has been one of my career highlights. He is a hugely talented and dedicated artist, and what’s exciting is he’s only just getting started.”

A dream come true for the artist, Coulter’s debut solo show at Sotheby’s London, You can’t Change the Music of your Soul, continues until 15 December 2022.

Coulter adds: “The public showing earlier this month had headphones and QR codes beside each painting. Visitors could essentially listen to each work and fully engage with it. That aspect was incredibly emotional for me. It was like everyone had entered my world in a way.

“I’m so thrilled that people can own these works — I poured my entire heart and soul into each one.”

About the champion

The Wick - Charlie Minter

Charlie Minter specialises in British and Irish art from the 20th century to the present day, spanning a rich history of artistic developments and a range of media, from paintings, works on paper and sculpture to ceramics. He has been involved in major sales within the market including Sotheby’s sale of David Bowie’s personal collection and the 2017 Howard Hodgkin: Portrait of the Artist auction. His artistic household includes his wife Alice Minter, the curator of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection at the V&A Museum.

“Staging the exhibition and working with Jack has been one of my career highlights.”

Place of Birth

Belfast

Education

I studied Fine Art at the Belfast School of Art from 2012 to 2015.

Awards, Accolades

I was listed on Forbes’ annual ’30 under 30’ list for Art & Culture in 2021. I was 26, and it shifted things a lot. I still feel privileged to have received such an accolade.

Current exhibitions

You can’t Change the Music of your Soul exhibition at Sotheby’s London until December 15 2022.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

My aunt Christine had a significant impact on me in my formative years. She was an abstract printmaker and her work still inspires me to this day. Also, my secondary school art teacher, Jacqui Rogan, reached out recently and said she was proud – that truly meant everything.

Advice

Allow yourself to create with genuine feelings and always continue to do so. That’s what truly resonates with people. Often it can become skewed by other things, whether personal, fear of someone else’s opinion or attention and success. It goes both ways. Stay with it, never give up and remember that if you’re feeling it, others will too. There’s a quote from Joan Mitchell that sums it up perfectly: “People will never understand what we are doing if they can’t feel. All art is abstract. All music is abstract. But it’s all real.” I think I’ll end it with that.

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