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I made images for what I couldn’t express in words.

 

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At Facebook my friend, artist Ian Whadcock, wrote briefly, simply, poignantly:

“A week of witnessing tears in conversation, voices broken with emotion and goodwill sapped by expectation.
Meanwhile, the parallel world of ambivalence, blind ideology and sheer selfishness, looks away in the belief it has nothing to do with them.
On a station platform, the kindest most unexpected words serve as a reminder that we are not alone.”

Key

The assemblages were made from objects that surround me at Ty Isaf. All things that I love and make me happy, and some that have strong associations because they were gifts from good friends. If the assemblages have a European quality to them, it’s because they’re mash-ups of British and European toys. I am, as a person and artist, a European. The two can’t be separated.

 

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The lettering for all four assemblages was originally created for the credit sequence of the 2013 animated film of The Soldier’s Tale I made to accompany a performance with orchestra at The Hay Festival. The tulips are also from the film.

The foil crèche in Europe Forever is Polish, and this type of work is particularly associated with the city of Krakow.

The small wooden buildings, trees and villagers are from the German toy-making region of Erzgebirge, as is the jaunty yellow carriage and horses in Forever Europe. The beautiful and tiny pull-along duck at the bottom of Rejoin, is also from the Erzebirge region, and came from Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop.

The white archways in Forever Europe and Rejoin were constructed from a beautiful boxed-set of vintage German building-blocks, the gift of my friend Mathijs van Soest.

The set had been played with by generations of children in Mathijs’ family, and he gave it to me with the message that he felt sure I’d use it well. I’ve endeavoured not to disappoint him. It’s appeared many times in animations and artworks, and in 2018 it toured the country in the music theatre work, Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes, and afterwards featured in the endpapers of the published edition of Simon Armitage’s text.

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The two colourful wooden birds in Forever Europe are made by the artist Tadeush Shultz, whose work I discovered at the online shop specialising in Polish folk art, Frank & Lusia. The wooden birds in Rejoin were also sourced at Frank & Lusia, and are by one of my favourite ‘bird’ folk artists, ‘Zak’.

The toy theatre proscenium in Stronger Together was painted by me. The house between two lions is Ty Isaf, my home.

There are three tigers in the assemblages. One is Indian, a gift from my friend Stephen Weeks in Prague, another is a jigsaw-puzzle tiger given to me by my friends Charles and Mary, and the third is very tiny and you will have to search very hard to find it. It’s based on a famous Staffordshire group called The Death of Munrow, but made for a dolls-house. It was a gift from my friend Angela Beaumont, who knew I would love it because I’d made a print of the Staffordshire group with my friend Dan at Penfold Press.

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The assemblages feature a number of lead toys. The two rearing Liberty Horses from Britains’ circus range are favourites of mine. In Rejoin there are two lead horsemen: the soldier on a rocking horse is by the company Wend-al, while the mounted bugler in a red turban I think is by Britains, and was a gift from my friends Sarah and James. There are also figures from Britains’ farm range: a cow, a sheep, lambs and lots of chickens.

The two tinplate cockerels in Europe Forever are Russian.

There are two birds drawn by me: a blue bird in Europe Forever, and small multi-coloured one in Stronger Together and Rejoin, the latter one of three made for the cover-flaps of the soon to be published Charis in the World of Wonders by Marly Youmans.

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The Soldier’s Tale Rebooted

 

 

devil-and-joseph-card-game_47438923751_o.jpgAbove, Joseph plays cards with the Devil in the spectacularly immersive presentation of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale recently performed at the University of British Columbia.

Earlier this year a student at the university, Job Wan, contacted me to ask whether I might be persuaded to allow the use of some of my images for a performance of  The Soldier’s Tale at the UBC’s School of Music. The lineup of musicians would be from UBC and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

I had little idea when Jacob enquired, what he had in mind. I thought maybe a few projected images, as I often get asked permissions for relatively simple presentations to accompany performances of TST. But later the conductor Robert Taylor joined in the conversations, and I began to get some idea of the ambition of Team UBC. To begin with I provided them with the edit I’d made, together with Pete Telfer and Daniel Broncano, for last year’s performance at Musica en Segura in Andalusia, which included quite a lot of animation. Jacob immediately got to work, using not only the material I’d sent, but other Soldier’s Tale imagery I’d produced over the years that he’d tracked down online, including paintings on the theme. In an extraordinary creative act, he re-tooled the material into an immersive presentation, using a wrap-around screen constructed from LED panels to fill the stage with imagery. For the first time my paintings and animations for The Soldier’s Tale would be not projected onto a screen above the musicians, but wrapped around them.

Back in 2013 I’d had very little time to draw playing-cards for the animated sequence of the game between Joseph and the Devil, and made only a handful of them. But Jacob has cleverly made a little go a long way by duplicating images so that the stage transforms into a storm of cards. One day I must try designing a full set. There is something entirely pleasing in the underlying design principle of the four suits.

 

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The Soldier at Segura

 

 

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On Wednesday May 16th, my animation of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale will be screened at the Música en Segura festival in Andalusia, in a spanking new version I’ve edited in association with festival director Daniel Broncano.

What I’m not

I’m often asked what kind of art I make. I know my face clouds over when the question comes, because the answer isn’t simple. Easier, perhaps, to say what I’m not.

I’m not a landscape or a still-life artist …

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… though earlier in my career I painted both.

I’m not a portrait painter and never have been, though everyone tells me they recognise Peter in my drawing and paintings.

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I’m not an abstract painter, though I love abstraction.

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My painting doesn’t aspire to realism, but rather to inner truth.

I’m not an illustrator though I make covers for novels and poetry.

Recently I’ve made my first picture book, though it’s not a children’s picture book.

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I’m not a print-maker, though I’m currently making a fourteen print series of screenprints with Dan Bugg of Penfold Press on the theme of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (Based on the translation by Simon Armitage.)

Penfold C cmyk-2While I’m an atheist, my work often explores biblical and faith based themes.

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I’m not an animator, though I made the animations for the 2013 stage production of The Mare’s Tale (composer Mark Bowden and librettist Damian Walford Davies)…

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… I was commissioned to make an animated film to accompany a performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale at the 2013 Hay Festival…

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…. and last year in collaboration with artist/model-maker Phil Cooper, film-maker Pete Telfer and composer Kate Romano, I created an animation as the online trailer for my picture book Hansel & Gretel. (Published by Random Spectacular.)

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Sometimes it’s not possible to make a simple answer.

 

 

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the artist’s sketches and what they led to

Not all of the drawings from yesterdays post came to anything. Some, like the drawings made in the ‘Paris’ sketchbook, were just ways to gather information and help me better understand what I was looking at. (There’s nothing like drawing to help get inside an artwork. I recommend putting the camera away and taking out the notebook and pencil.) But many of the sketchbooks were working toward projects, whether paintings or books, and so here are a few of of the outcomes from images begun in them.

Project Book: EQUUS

The sketchbook was preliminary to work on the illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus. (The Old Stile Press, 2009.) The drawing on the right prepared the way for the following study…

… and then the frontispiece of the finished book.

The portrait of troubled Alan Strang as shown in the initial drawing here, went through multiple incarnations before making it into the book, though the same basic ideas held throughout. Here’s one of the finished illustrations.

Project Book: CARN EUNY

The Carn Euny sketchbook had a massive influence on the paintings that came after it. The one below, a still-life with a Staffordshire ‘Girl and Dog’, recognisably references both landscape drawings of the page-spread.

Project Book: THE SOLDIER’S TALE

The Soldier’s Tale project book prepared the way for two forays into the theme, the first of which was a 2012 concert performance of the work in Washington DC.

MONTCLAR (CATALONIA) SKETCHBOOK

This drawing of the village of Montclar in Catalunya, was made specifically to take back to the studio to use as background reference for the painting Christ Writes in the Dust, a commission from the Methodist Collection of Modern British Art.

GENERAL SKETCHBOOK

The goat and ‘fish lamp’ in the drawings above, are of terracotta pieces I made in the pottery workshop of Pip Koppel. The ceramics have since frequently made appearances in my still-life paintings.

The drawing of a still-life in front of a seascape is one of a group that led to a series of paintings on the theme. The pelican ceramic is by the artist John Maltby.

Project Book: THE BOOK OF TRICKS

The schematic sketches of vessels in this project book, were realised in later still-life paintings. Here’s just one of them.

Project Book: CLIVE’S BOOK OF PUPPETS

The character studies for Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale shown in this page-spread of the puppet sketchbook, were developed into portrait images of Joseph and the Princess used in the animated film I made to accompany the chamber-work, screened at the the 2013 Hay Festival.

GENERAL SKETCHBOOK

The frottage drawings in the above sketchbook were ideas toward the cover of a brochure celebrating fifty years of  a youth theatre I’d once been a member of.

last minute title change

Completed on day five in the studio

Joseph and the Flying Bouquet

Acrylic and sgrafitto on gessoed panel. 80 x 80 cm. 2014

Soldier Joseph is hurrying, carrying flowers to the Princess who he’s rescued from a curse of sleep. (Or perhaps she was just a lazy stay-a-bed, pretending.) Love has loaned wings to his heels, but he’s tripped and sent sunflowers and tulips flying through the air. The Princess, alas, is not to be trusted, and our hero will be led into peril by her. Oh dear. And he looks so happy, here.

See all the stages of the painting from start to finish, HERE