Views to the city
oil on canvas
60 x 76 cm
|Peter Boggs and mysterious realities.|
Giorgio de Chirico once famously observed that “Although the dream is a very strange phenomenon and an inexplicable mystery, far more inexplicable is the mystery and aspect our minds confer on certain objects and aspects of life.” Peter Boggs is an artist who discovers realities beyond those which first meet the eye – he celebrates in his art a mysterious otherness.
Boggs rhetorically states “I’ve never liked the idea of 200 people seeing one of my pictures at the same time.” Indeed, he generally works on a modest scale where you are invited to contemplate and meditate on an image. They are not paintings with what Andy Warhol called a high “wow” factor. They don’t scream at you from the walls, but if you pause and look into them the rewards are considerable.
Boggs is a figurative tonal painter, where Morandi and Hopper would be two international parallels and Jeffrey Smart, an Australian counterpart. He is increasingly regarded as a ”painter’s painter”, which is basically code for saying that fellow artists regard him highly and will seek out his work.
A New Zealander by birth, who was originally taught by Colin McCahon, Peter Boggs has been in Australia for twenty years. Over this time there have been no abrupt changes in his art, only a gradual progression and growing intensity. He favours deserted towns and landscapes where nothing much on the surface happens, but the sense of anticipation is immense. Boggs is interested in this sense of mystery, the anticipation of things happening off stage, that which are felt rather than seen.
In this exhibition a number of the deserted street scenes belong to south western Victoria - the abandoned towns near Casterton, Coleraine and Merino as well as some inner city settings. Location is both critically important and almost incidental. Boggs will spot a detail, it could be a doorway, light falling on a wall or a pattern of shadows, which will then form the germ for the work which will slowly and deliberately develop in studies, sketches and paintings. In the final work location has been absorbed into a certain universality and it becomes almost irrelevant exactly where The corner store, Early morning or Newly refurbished were originally located, what becomes important is the ambience of mystery which these paintings evoke. His is a very deliberate art – geometrically resolved, tonally interpreted and executed with a supreme impersonality of touch. Ultimately he is concerned with the sense of the metaphysical which lies disguised in the everyday. Although his deliberate artistic strategies may include the mathematical 'golden section', the subdued palette and an obsession with the angle of vision, light and shadow, in his wonderful tonal paintings and subtle drawings he creates transfigured realities which breathe with a sense of otherness.
This is certainly his finest and most adventurous exhibition to date. The mark making is more decisive, the play with geometry more provocative and the sense of the enigma more profound. It is a very formidable exhibition by an artist who is making a singular contribution to our artistic culture.
Professor Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA
The Sir William Dobell Professor of Art History
Australian National University