Peter Sharp 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. Sharp was a recipient of a Cite International des Arts Residence, Paris in 1997. A monograph Peter Sharp: Will to Form was published in 2012. Sharp has been a finalist in the Paddington Art Prize (2020, 13, 08), the Hazelhurst Art of Paper Prize (2019, 15, 13, 11, 07, 05, 03), the Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize (2018, 10, 06), the Dobell Prize (2010, 09), the Sulman Prize (2008, 98) and the Wynne Prize (2003, 96). 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.
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GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE
21 OCTOBER TO 8 NOVEMBER 2020
‘Expectation prevents discovery’.
In Bruce Springsteen’s 2019 song Hitch Hikin’, the singer describes a solitary figure, thumbing his way along from one place to another, happy to be on the open road, heading somewhere else. There is no sense of urgency, and destination is eschewed in favour of discovery; a promise of time alone with your thoughts and with yourself. In artist Peter Sharp’s most recent body of work there is that familiar/unfamiliar feeling that comes from taking a detour away from a known path and travelling a byway instead.
The works in Going Somewhere Else propose a different route. While the paintings contain remnants of his 10-year engagement with the ubiquitous Australian eucalypt, the artist is moving on, curious to see where the road might take him, happy not to answer questions but to pose them instead. Though he still employs the same methods of observation and deconstruction he has in the past (the artist is known for his idiosyncratic charcoal drawings of the natural world), these new paintings emphasise the unexpected encounters that occur through his reconstructive processes.
In the new works, Sharp has abandoned his concern for mnemonic referents through which an audience might link forms and shapes back to their eucalypt source. Instead he is more concerned with the materiality of the paint and the hard, fuzzy, spikey, flat textures and raw ‘object-ness’ of the natural world that underscores his practice. This is evident in Sharp’s approach to his paintings where inky voids contrast gum grey arabesques of line that reference the charcoal drawings but refuse mimetic representation; teasingly buried under areas of flat colour that no longer sample the eucalypt directly, but obliquely reference their source. Salmon hued orange fragments stretch across bark-like textures in dark greys and weathered blues, while minty green, hard-edged arcs push against organic forms creating delicious tensions that seem familiar but are not. Sharp’s customary circles, here in musk stick pink, punctuate the compositions like signposts on a road and generate a gentle rhythm linking one work to the next.
Long admired by Sharp, the late American abstractionist Thomas Nozkowski had a habit of walking to work via a different route each time. He did this because he ‘loved to take walks [and] always wanted to find something new. He had a kind of voracious curiosity’. Interested in what he might find along the way, this anecdote provides a perfect analogy for the approach that Sharp has taken with this new body of work. Like Nozkowski, Sharp is always alert to the possibilities that lie within the rectangular constraints of his linen supports, resisting the familiar in favour of chance encounter.
Michelle Cawthorn, July 2020
 Suri Hustvedt, 2005, Mysteries of the Rectangle, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, p xix
 John Yau in conversation with Hrag Vartanian, podcast EP68, Hyperallergic, 15 May 2020 <https://hyperallergic.com/564592/art-critic-john-yau/> accessed 20 July 2020
HOW TO PAINT TREES
4 TO 22 JULY 2018
“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 FINALIST IN THE DOBELL DRAWING PRIZE 22
Peter Sharp is a finalist in The Dobell Drawing Prize 22 . The Dobell Drawing Prize is the leading drawing exhibition in Australia. Presented in partnership with the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation (SWDAF), the biennial prize explores the enduring importance of drawing within contemporary art practice. . The exhibition is current at the National…
PETER SHARP FEATURED WITH MICHELLE CAWTHORN IN ART COLLECTOR’S ‘YOU ME & COVID-19 SERIES’
YOU ME & COVID-19: MICHELLE CAWTHORN AND PETER SHARP The You, Me & COVID-19 series sees the region’s artists interviewed by the partners they’re sharing #iso with. Watch artists and partners Michelle Cawthorn and Peter Sharp in conversation from their home in the Sutherland Shire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=pSBbL1ioeUw&feature=emb_logo
PETER SHARP IS A FINALIST IN THE HAZELHURST ART ON PAPER AWARD 2019 AT HAZELHURST ARTS CENTRE
Peter Sharp ‘Give and Take’ 2018 four monoprints 86 x 61 cm (ea) Exhibition current 21 September 2019 to 17 November 2019