Alan Charlton has stated that he is an artist who paints grey paintings. One of the few statements he has issued over the course of his career, this aptly summarizes the artist’s visual language. Trained in art in his hometown of Sheffield, Charlton completed his studies at the Royal Academy in London. In 1968, for the Academy’s annual student exhibition, he created his first grey painting, which was rejected and not included in the show. Instead of dissuading him, this experience encouraged him to steadfastly pursue his chosen path. In 1972 he had his first solo exhibition at the Konrad Fischer Gallery in Düsseldorf, where he exhibited only grey paintings. From then on, he limited his work to this single choice of color, usually as a dense, uniformly applied monochrome. A conscious preference for a totally impersonal artistic language can be seen in the avoidance of any expressive elements. Space, expectation, and silence are the origins of his painting and his canvases, which reject any aspiration to transcendence, remaining strongly rooted in reality. Charlton’s art achieves its vibrancy through the intensity of rhythm and spacing and the dialectical relationship that it establishes with the environment and the surrounding space.
The Castello di Rivoli contains several works by Charlton, from different periods of the artist’s work, revealing the grey painting in continuous evolution. In Single Panel Painting, 1977, the painting’s structure and internal logic reflects Charlton’s predilection for basic modules and compositional shapes (such as the square and rectangle). Absent any figuration or personal expressiveness, the work finds its identity in its pure equilibrium. Multiple Line Painting, 1984, consists of eighteen horizontal panels spaced five centimeters apart from one another. Through the serial repetition of the identical module, the painting interacts spatially with the supporting wall. More recently, the artist has experimented with the juxtaposition of different modulations of grey within a single work, as seen in Five Vertical Parts (Two Greys), 2001.