Peter Booth

, 2009
pastel and charcoal on paper
580 x 870 cm Click to enlarge

For over twenty years, Peter Booth has produced works which allude to the darkness of human nature. Booth’s paintings and drawings convey a tension which is common to all beings and yet isolates them from one another. The spectacular visual power of Booth’s immense, mysterious and often disturbing narratives has commanded sustained critical attention and has earned him an international reputation as one of Australia’s most significant and influential artists.

Whilst the complex relationships between figures in Booth’s work defy a straightforward explanation, the struggle between man and his natural setting is constant across his paintings and drawings. Oppressive skies, burning wrecks and monstrous human figures appear frequently in Booth’s visual vocabulary. Often, Booth’s thick, layered gestures suggest that man continues to be overcome by the power of nature despite his own destructive tendencies.

Rendered sensitively in charcoal, or in heavy impasto pastel which recalls the thickness of his painted works, the drawings in MEMORIES describe scenes both real and imagined. They evoke moments in cultural history as well as referring to moments that are deeply personal. They speak of events witnessed, and events which spring from the depths of the unconscious mind. To view Booth’s works on paper as ‘working drawings’, as sketches toward his painted works, is to overlook their power as works in themselves. These vignettes convey an energy beyond their size. They condense the absurdity of violence into a cameo; or they illustrate the potential for human dignity in a potent and humbling form.

These highly-charged, yet ambiguous scenes are heavy with Booth’s distinctive symbolism. In many of these drawings, the landscape itself becomes a character. The environment – both rural and urban – exudes a force as strong as man’s. Whilst the works are imbued with bleak sensibility, they are not entirely without humour. Flecks of colour and light ignite the restrained palette of greys and blacks; moments of laughter and collegiality – comfort in our being part of a society – appear as flashes from the grim darkness. These moments are refuge from the horrors of our imaginations.