Current artist in residence and exhibitor at 30 Upstairs, Gary Peters gives us some insight to his process and methods. Gary invites us into the world that he sees and the simple beauty of noticing the small things.
The work you made during your Masters at Massey University, Wellington, stemmed from using Choose your own adventure books. Your paintings were direct translations of the decisions you made in the books. How has your process morphed since then?
During my Masters (2011/2012) I started using the adventure game books to create works that were in some ways beyond my control. I set up the rules for the work, played the game, recorded my moves and used the generated dataset to create the forms for my wall works. As my research developed the systematic element received less focus as I became increasingly aware of how my wall works related to the surrounding architecture. I was very aware of how the work sat in the space and of how people moved through and experienced the space.
Given your current mode of working in relation to the space you’re showing in, was the exhibition space at 30 Upstairs a big draw card for you? How did the space shape your work?
We (Mal, Jhana and I) had been talking about showing my work since the gallery opened. I finished my Masters last year, had two shows in Wellington before I went to Sydney (for an Artist in Residence position) so last year was way too busy. It is only now that I have been able to take up the opportunity to do a show and the residency.
As for the space, I wish I could have been working in there for several months. Indulgent I know but there are so many things to notice, some many quirky details it would have been great to really get to know the space over a long period of time and make several different pieces in response to that.
The space itself has a direct influence on my work – the forms of the two long pieces are the same size and shape as the lights in the space. The flat colours on the walls (except the red) are details I noticed on the scratched skirting boards, so yes the space has an influence on what I make.
As your work is a direct response to the space, how important for you is it for people to view the works in situ and why?
My work encourages the audience to become more aware of their surroundings. The pieces of architecture I’ve noticed and highlighted lead the viewer to have a heightened awareness of the space and of the details in it. Seeing the work online, gives you a different perspective. You notice different things perhaps and you also miss things. It’s a limited, different experience. You’ll miss the chance to notice that the two Werk pieces are the same shape and form as the lights in the gallery. The panel paintings, for example, are made on actual tongue and groove paneling identical to the paneling that exists in the space – this correlation may be missed if you were only to view the show online or if the works were exhibited in an alternative location. You’ll also be unable to see the circle in Big Week is also on the paneling in the gallery space.
Colour is obviously a very important part of your practice. Tell us more about what drives your choices.
Over the last couple of years my confidence in using colour has grown considerably – I guess I’ve become, as David Batchelor would say, a chromophile. I now find I try to trip myself up with it (colour) and look for ways to surprise myself and the viewer. I know what a red next to a blue can do so when I’m painting I find myself reacting against my instinctive choices and try to pick something that doesn’t make sense, that could even be seen as ugly. Some of the colour combinations are, I hope, fascinatingly repulsive. I like the idea of work being both seductive and repulsive. Bright colour often draws people in to a work and then once seduced they start to look and get to discover new things in the work – different spaces appear and fluctuate as the colours start to come forward or recede.
How has your time being the resident artist at 30 Upstairs changed your work and where do you see it going from here? Any thoughts of moving outdoors or into three-dimensional works?
I don’t know if my time here has changed my work, more that’s it’s helped me develop. I’ve currently got a strong urge to start making more paintings again, moving away from responding to space. I’ve had these two threads to my practice – the wall works and the painting objects. Both feed each other so I’m looking forward to making more paintings and enjoying that dialogue.
One of the things I’ve learned from this show, or rather had reconfirmed, is how important it is for me to keep my ideas focused and realise them in a concise manner. When I do this the work really begins to sing.
Larger scale work is definitely something I’d like to explore and yes, outdoors is definitely an option – in fact I’m beginning to put a proposal together for something at the moment.
As for three-dimensional works, I’ve always thought of paintings as objects and treat them that way. I have a thing about edges and part of the work is how I deal with them. Do I leave them bare? Do I paint them? Do I try to get rid of them altogether?
If by three-dimensional objects you mean moving off the wall, I’ll have to see. What I’d really like to do is set some time aside to experiment and play without the pressure of making works for an exhibition. I’ve some bits of wood I’d like to play with. I learn by making things, having the space to experiment and see where the work takes me is extremely valuable to me.
Now the show is up I’m focussing on developing some new paintings and wall drawings for a group show at Paul Nache gallery, opening in Gisbourne on the 1st of November. I’m also working on a project with a collector, which I hope I’ll be ready to say more about soon. It would seem the day to day work of an artist is (fortunately) never ending!