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 that the beautiful grey wood is undergoing its own natural process being weathered by the sun and rain. I manoeuvre past one final sculptural work and enter the airy spacious studio of Sydney artist Peter Sharp. Peter creates breathtaking artwork and maintains wonderfully simple and true ethics that guide his art practice and teaching.
His studio space is a first-year painter’s art dream; it is old school in all the right ways. Paint is splattered across the concrete floors, and tall white walls are holding various works in progress. Art books are numerous and there is an old 50’s couch above which hangs a montage of beautiful framed artworks gifted to Peter by other artists over the years. Numerous glass jars are crammed with paintbrushes and endless large tubes of paint lie in a long line on the workbench.
On this day, the roller door is up and the ocean breeze and sunshine add to the ambience of the space.
The ocean is where Peter begins his day and, if he can, where he finishes it. He is a life-long surfer and has been surfing with the same crowd for years.
We chatted about his latest show while Peter brewed me leaf tea and rustled together a plate of short bread biscuits. Actually, there was a surprising amount of large glass jars filled with bickies throughout the studio.
Peter’s most recent show ‘How to draw trees’ at Liverpool Street gallery in Sydney, was his chance to focus in on what he naturally loves most – drawing. By his own admission he is a natural drawer, and painting is a more conscious undertaking. For Peter, drawing is like breathing, it comes and it goes, it cannot be stopped as it is its own natural force.
All Peter’s work originates from drawings made in the bush. These little drawings are the building blocks for small paintings, then the small paintings inspire larger and grander paintings. This humble and honest connectivity with the landscape remains in all the incarnations of his research material.
The Trees in the show ‘How to draw trees’ can be found at Fowlers Gap, the University of NSW research station outside of Broken Hill. A few days a week Peter teaches drawing at UNSW, and has taken groups of art students, many times, to the research station.
These particular trees have given Peter years of inspiration.
We wander over to look at the large scale works in progress. These paintings are continuing on the theme of trees and the Australian landscape.
Music fills the studio. C.W Stone King, an Aussie blues singer, appears to be on high rotation. Music influences Peter’s methodology and he always listens to music while he paints, saying he finds it energising. Rarely does Peter listens to podcasts or audio books, but rather the 4,500 songs he has stored.
He has certain music that has fallen to particular tasks; Beastie Boys is for stretching canvas, and Bec’s new album has been played a lot of late, simply because it is new to the collection and has been defining itself as the theme of the day many days over.
I am always intrigued to understand what motivates an artist to keep working, keep exploring, investigating, what nurtures and feeds the curious mind of a creative.
It is simple for Peter, he is in constant search for a work that surprises him. He wants a picture to yell at him! He wants to be part of bringing something new into the world, and to be present when all the pieces click together in a unique and satisfying way.
To get to this perfect imperfect finished work, Peter claims you must go through bad days. Days when the work says ‘Fuck you!’ and you say ‘Fuck you’! right back.
He says you can think you’re on top of it but you never really are. As an artist you must be constantly adapting and growing. It is all about the process.
Peter has self-published a gorgeous book of drawings as part of his ‘How to draw Trees’ show. They can be purchased from Liverpool St Gallery or the Blurb publishing site. He is currently working towards his next show which will be held at Nicholas Thomson gallery in Melbourne next July.
Peter Sharp is a great Australian artist who quite simply loves making honest art.