As previously announced painting student Peter Appleton is this year’s winner of the OCA’s Richard Robbins Award. In recognition of his outstanding achievement, Peter was offered the opportunity in November to mount his first solo exhibition at the View Two Gallery in Liverpool’s Mathew Street.
The show entitled, A journey to the places and people of the Mersey, was made up of twenty-five powerful mixed media images which presented Peter’s unique take on the urban landscape of the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, which he says has provided him with a wealth of ideas for his work.
Born in St. Helens Peter has grown to love this often harsh environment that has always surrounded him to become the inspiration for this current series. However, his paintings are more than mere two-dimensional representation of the physical world. He is also fascinated by the circumstantial evidence of man’s interaction with the environment and establishing a real ‘sense of place’ in his work.
As Peter explains, ‘My personal interaction with the landscape and people inspire my work. I use my observations of the world around me coupled with my inner feelings and express those within my paintings. My desire is to convey a strong sense of emotion or sense of place and my work is expressive in nature.’
As an artist Peter is ever eager to explore alternative approaches, and whilst all his work resonates with his distinctive voice, some pieces are figurative whilst others can be more abstract, where modifications in style of execution and palette are often stimulated on site by his personal response to the subject.
Appropriately then, Peter describes his style as being somewhere between ‘expressionism and surrealism’ and the pieces in this exhibition would certainly bear this out.
In an attempt to convey an intimacy with the landscape Peter initially works, as often as possible, ‘en plein air’. Then, back in the studio, also drawing on memory, he combines paint with collage – often detritus found on site – along with frottage techniques and surface staining – he tells me his favourite medium is cold tea! The palette is invariably restricted to a range of earth colours with slivers of complementary, where shapes become approximated and detail is sacrificed to generating a feeling of place and an expression of emotion.
The combined result is an intriguing series of images which evince the artist’s hand and personal identity, be they portrayals of the destitute of contemporary society or gritty images of the water-front and abandoned industrial structures. But for all their candid depiction of urban decay many of the images are also romantic, where their colour, subject matter and vertical compositions can at times be reminiscent of Canaletto’s elongated canal vitas of Venice.
Prior to studying with the OCA Peter studied at Wirral Metropolitan College in Birkenhead. He also studied life drawing at the Bluecoat Gallery and still participates in a regular life drawing group in Liverpool. He is currently a member of the 104 Duke Street Studios in Liverpool. You can hear his tutor David Winning talking about Peter’s working methods in this earlier WeAreOCA post.