Peter Booth

27th May – 19th June 2010
Anna Schwartz Gallery

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.


Peter Booth

Mem­o­ries, 2010