- View the artworks from Terra (2013)
- View the artworks from Ravensworth (Swamp Lantern) Hong Kong Art Fair (2012)
- View the artworks from The Ravensworth Series (Reprise) (2011)
- View the artworks from Landscape 2010 (2010)
- View the artworks from First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (2009)
- View the artworks from Kooragang (2008)
The first legitimate question is “Where do these weird agglomerates of object, flora and flesh come from”?
Well … the artist Peter Gardiner in the new series of paintings, Prima Facie, is simply continuing the flow of his recurring images and painterly textures.
When I first visited Peter at his studio in the Newcastle suburb of Tighes Hill over a decade ago he showed me dozens of palm sized note/sketch pads filled with doodles and drawings.
In one was a black Artline pen sketch of a city skyline; the viewer’s perspective was from above looking across the vast metropolis.
Inside the maze of lines and buildings was a void … an implosion of buildings leaving a crater of debris and detritus.
Only months before … and this sketchbook was over a year old … two aircraft had stopped the world by smashing in to the New York World Tower buildings.
It illustrated how Gardiner always has the uncanny ability to tap into the dirty laundry stored by the collective unconscious.
His first series of paintings at the Damien Minton Gallery, then located in Newcastle, were middens of urban detritus. Dildos rested amongst wrecked metal and Catholic bishop miters. His second show were rows and rows of heads, The Parliament Series, which echoed the grotesque heads of Leonardo da Vinci, the pudgy peasant faces of Brueghel, the distortions of mad Goya characters.
Gardiner has the technical capacity to lean into the 16th to 18th century masters with ease, replicating the painterly qualities with a few flicks of the brush. It is almost as if he has an antediluvian yearning, for a time before the flood of modernism and then post modernism.
Yet this current grab bag world of taking any image and juxtaposing it with any other suits the visual teletext Gardiner stores in his mind.
The new series, Prima Facie, brings to surface Gardiner’s fascination with the 16th century mannerist Arcimboldo who created portraits made up of fruit, flora and fauna. Born in Milan, Arcimboldo served in the Habsburg courts in both Vienna and Prague. The tightly spun illusionistic trickery has survived the ages and often cited as an early influence on the Surrealists. A colleague of the time, the poet Fonteo, played with the same features as Arcimboldo’s famous series of Elements and Seasons.
The common features or pairs of features –cold/warm and wet/dry can be combined in four different ways so that the following correspondence can be established:
“Summer is hot and dry, like Fire. Winter is cold and wet, like Water. Air and Spring are both hot and wet, and Autumn and the Earth is cold and dry”.
The endless combinations of allegorical and symbolic allusions spill out of Peter Gardiner’s new paintings.
The metaphors, synonyms, antonyms, parables, malapropisms are all there in a volcanic oozing pile of heads and shoulders.
One of the paintings, Mayfielder, is inspired to the characters who frequent the same shopping centre as Gardiner in the Newcastle suburb of Mayfield.
They are not the stereotypical clean suburban nuclear family. Damaged physical and psychological souls who lurk around the social welfare net, yet rich and full in their human experience.
Without having to spell anything out, Gardiner reaches in and gets that illusive quality which immediately speaks to his audience.
The best of Gardiner’s work has an immediate appeal to a broad general public.
It has, I think, something to do with what Gilles Delueze discusses in the book, ‘Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation’.
“This is the very general thread that links Bacon to Cezanne: paint the sensation, or, as Bacon will say very close to Cezanne’s, record the fact. “It is a very, very close and difficult thing to know why some paint comes across directly onto the nervous system and other paint tells you the story in a long diatribe through the brain”. 1
When Peter Gardiner is on a flow, as he is in this series, Prima Facie, there is a rushing freeway of coordination from his brain to his soul and then immediately through into the nerves of his forearms, hand, the brush and surface.
Viewers can feel it, witness it, every time.
1. David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon 1962-1979
1983-1990Bachelor of Arts (visual arts)
High Distinction in painting University of Newcastle
2013Salon des Refuses, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
Solo exhibition, ‘Terra’, Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern2012Salon des Refuses, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
Solo exhibition, Hong Kong Art Fair 2012
Melbourne Art Fair 20122011The Ravensworth Series, solo exhibition at Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern
The Dobell Drawing prize, Art Gallery of NSW
Muswellbrook Open Art Prize
Callen Art Award, Cowra Regional Art Gallery
Hard Sleeper Group Exhibition, Damien Minton Gallery2010Tempest, group exhibition with James Gleeson and Andy Devine, Newcastle Region Art Gallery
Muswellbrook Open Art Prize, Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre
Temple Drum, Red Gate Gallery, Beijing
Landscape, Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern
Barcelona Studies, Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern2009First letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern 2008The Kooragang Series, solo exhibition at the Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern 2007Dobell Drawing Prize, finalist, AGNSW
Solo exhibition, Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern
Mosman Art Prize, finalist 2006Kilgour Art Prize, Newcastle, finalist
Mosman Art Prize, finalist
Solo exhibition, debris fields, at the Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern
Winner, Maitland Art Prize 20052005: The Year In Art, invitation group exhibition at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
Solo exhibition, new work at the Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern 2005Mosman Art Prize, finalist
Solo exhibition, as the population grows, at the Damien Minton Gallery, Newcastle
Mosman Art Prize, finalist
12 Artists from Newcastle in Sydney, the Depot Gallery, Waterloo presented by the Damien Minton Gallery 2002Ten artists from Newcastle in Sydney, The Depot Gallery, Waterloo, Sydney presented by the Damien Minton Gallery, Newcastle
Solo exhibition of new work, Damien Minton Gallery, Newcastle 1999Legge Gallery, Sydney 1998Arcania Canberra Contemporary Art Space 1997new work Tin Sheds, University of Sydney 1996Arcane Reverie 3, Rocket Art, Newcastle 1995Arcane Reverie 2, Airspace, Canberra
Arcane Reverie, Rocket Art, Newcastle
2011Winner, Callen Art Award, Cowra Regional Art Gallery
Highly Commended, Muswellbrook Open Art Prize2010Winner, Muswellbrook Open Art Prize
Australia Council Studio, Residency, Barcelona
Hard Sleeper project, Residency and exhibition, Redgate Gallery, Beijing2007Finalist, Dobell Drawing Prize, AGNSW 2006Finalist, The Kilgour Art Prize, Newcastle
Winner, Maitland Acquisitive Art Prize 1998Studio Scholarship, Artspace, Woolloomooloo, NSW Ministry of the Arts 1990Sulman Prize finalist, AGNSW and touring show 1989Sulman Prize finalist, AGNSW and touring show
Art Bank, Australia
Cowra Regional Art Gallery
Gippsland Art Gallery
Muswellbrook Regional Gallery
Maitland Regional Art Gallery
Macquarie Group Art Collection
Newcastle Art Gallery
The Australian Club, Sydney
Private collections in Australia and China