Sydney based Peter Sharp (b. 1964) has held solo exhibitions since 1989 in Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Melbourne and internationally in Germany. His work has been included in group exhibitions since 1987 throughout Australia and internationally in Paris, Chang Mai, Beijing and London. Sharp is a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales School of Art and Design and has a Master of Fine Arts (1992) from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. His work was acquired by the Kedumba Drawing Award in 2007 and the Grafton Regional Gallery's Jacaranda Drawing Award in 1996; and he was a recipient of a Cite International des Arts Residence, Paris in 1997. Sharp has been a finalist in the Dobell Prize (2010, 2009), the Sulman Prize (2008, 1998) and the Wynne Prize (2003, 1996). His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artbank, regional and tertiary collections in Australia and significant corporate collections. A monograph on Peter Sharp was published in 2012.
HOW TO PAINT TREES
4 TO 22 JULY
“Kiss me……..I want you to kiss me like a stranger once again”
Peter Sharp - How to paint trees
Beyond my window is a sinuous Jackwood that is gently brushing the glass pane. I have known this tree for 13 years and yet, on days like today when the rain lightly falls, and the pale green lichen is luminous in the grey light, I wonder again at this beauty I am so familiar with. For me, that moment of wonder is enough, but for artist Peter Sharp, it is a provocation. The more familiar that Sharp becomes with a subject, the more determined he is to interrogate it, to know it beyond the superficial, to re-cognise it anew. But how do you make the familiar pulse with the thrill of first discovery? How do you convey that seduction of colour and shape, the smells and sounds of first encounter?
This is a challenge that Sharp relishes in his practice. For the body of work presented here, the subject of his interrogation are the trees of Fowlers Gap, an arid zone at the edge of the Strzelecki desert in far western New South Wales, a site he has visited many times over the years. While some would be tempted to render this landscape in its entirety, Sharp’s is an intimate approach, concerned with the minutia, foregoing the whole for the sum of its parts.
His investigation begins with drawing; swiftly noting shape and form with a gestural ease that belies the rigorous process of observation and recording that informs each one. The drawing is active and exploratory; purposely disrupting the connection between eye and paper through a process of rubbing that creates a friction; generating a tension in the drawings that is conveyed both literally and metaphorically.
But this is only part of a process that constitutes Sharp’s re-cognising of his subject. For Sharp the drawings are like specimens collected in the field and they hold the key to his way into the paintings. From them he extracts forms which he then transposes onto canvas with acrylic paint in loose and languid lines. The marks are made quickly, as they are with the drawings, but the method of application mediates his control, the drips and drops of the paint falling where they may through this process of transference. But for Sharp, this is not enough.
There’s line from a Tom Waits song that goes like this;
I want you to kiss me
Like a stranger once again”[i]
Waits is talking about his desire to feel anew the frisson of first touch attached to something long loved. This is analogous to Sharp’s relationship with the subject of these works. In his desire to portray his experience of a landscape he has known for more than half his life he seeks to reimagine those first encounters. It is a going to it rather than an it coming to you; not passive but active.
For Sharp, the act painting itself is a provocation, a dynamic thing. He does not underestimate the viewer nor does make apology for the fact that the viewer must work to make connections between the forms, textures and colours in his work. This equates to a transference of his experience to the viewer, that sense of discovery that Sharp himself experiences each time he steps out into the field.
Michelle Cawthorn, June 2018
[i] Bad As Me 2011, ‘Kiss Me’, Tom Waits and ANTI Records, http://www.tomwaits.com/songs/song/369/Kiss_Me/
PETER SHARP INTERVIEWED BY THE LIFE STYLE EDIT
DRAWING TREES AND DRINKING TEA WITH PETER SHARP November 2, 2017 Kate Swinson / Art Contributor It is midmorning, a beautiful Spring day and I am weaving through carved blocky wooden sculptures in varying states of completion. They are sitting somewhat randomly leading up to the entrance of the studio I am visiting. I notice…