Peter Greenaway Artworks

Being trained as painter, Peter never stopped painting and drawing. His art searches the boundaries of different media types and challenges the audience. Last years there have been some exhibitions in Tel Aviv and Barcelona and some other cities. In 2016 there will be more exhibitions. Please check our News page for more exhibitions.

Would you be interested in showing or buying Peters drawings or paintings? Please let us know. We will find solutions suited to your Museum or Gallery.

PETER GREENAWAY ON HIS PAINTING

“I paint with water-based acrylic. I need the paint to dry quickly because I am impatient and need to travel, and I paint on portable composite-board whose size is related to what I can enter and exit from a Dutch attic-workshop which is usually through the window. I am aware of the dominant film-image aspect-ratio which nowadays is a landscape sixteen by nine, and since I often commit the paintings to film, painting on a sixteen by nine image aspect-ratio easily transports to the film-screen without cropping or re-framing.  I enjoy the used look of acrylic which can be abused and scratched and eroded and feels artisanal – more like the materials of a house-painter as opposed to an easel-painter. I enjoy paintings that have been painted on walls, and are far from the clichéd niceties of canvas and oil paint. I paint on a horizontal surface, preferably on a very large flat table where I can approach the painting surface from north, south, east and west. I rarely paint on any vertical surface provided by an easel, which is ironic since I was trained as a mural painter working on vertical surfaces whilst standing on a scaffold.

I like to make things in series (which is also true of my habits as a writer) and I habitually and unapologetically paint “variations on a theme” that might obsessively repeat a motif ad nauseam. I enjoy repetitions.  I like to make paintings that are footnotes or addenda to other paintings or are even second thoughts and rethinks or even corrections to other paintings.  I like to bound ahead and then retreat, filling in the gaps, so to speak, between paintings, making up the chain of pictorial events that lead from one idea to another. I like paintings that feel they have been around for some time and show ageing and wear, and often indeed are in need of restoration. I think sometimes of myself as a painting-restorer and not a painter. I like the idea of something being there before. I have had paintings returned because there are complaints that they have been damaged, whereas it is me that has made the damage. I enjoy damaged Roman wall painting and constantly seek it out. A great excitement for me is often a damaged fictionalised Pompeii. I like the idea of my paintings being discovered by archaeologists after being buried a long time in some unsuitable material.

I have a fascination with paintings that instruct - instructional paintings – based on diagrams and plans, charts and maps, paintings that number and count and index and list and identify. And I enjoy seeing the evidence of the paintings’ manufacture.

I enjoy using rulers, masking-tape and stencils. I enjoy erasures and re-starts, and I enjoy seeing the marks of construction and erosion. I often cheat to show the supposed marks of construction and erosion.

The content is of two broad types – none-illustrational representations of natural landscape – field and beach, sea and sand and sky and empty physical space. I suspect it may be because I have always had an anxiety about Nature’s ephemerality and perishability; nothing stays around for very long. The second set of representations are symbolic of the human body. The earth’s seventy billion human animals all basically look the same and can be broken down into heads, torsos, arms, hands, feet, belly, breast and genitals, the universal vertebrate plan. The colour blue is often suggestive of utopia; black can represent its opposite.

In recent years I have made a set of fifty stencils to represent all the parts of the people of the planet. These stencils can constantly be arranged and rearranged to make representations of whole or fragmentary human beings. The individual parts are always the same, the configurations different in context, texture, color, media and intent; they take their place in anatomical reconstructions, in dramatic scenarios, in portrait assemblages, in historical tableaux, in genealogical diagrams, in erotic displays. Sometimes they are simply offered as visual lists of the fascination of being physically human.

Sometimes the two fascinations – landscapes and people - meet and combine, but often the two fascinations are so different that they can look like the products of two separate imaginations. The paintings share some of the formal characteristics of the film vocabulary I have developed to suit my cinematic ambitions – the dominance of the frame, excessive symmetry and a sense of visual irony – frozen storms, passive disasters, menaced joy.  The anxiety of nuclear power and the threat of global warming are shadowing presences. The number 92 - the unchangeable atomic number of uranium – always the same across the entire universe, and weather reports – unstable, volatile, changing every minute - are both significant”.  

  • Dutch landscape:   

“For the last two decades I have lived and worked in Holland, a flat country, a long wide beach where sea and land meet, where fresh water and sea water mix. The landscapes of Holland are irredeemably flat and seemingly two dimensional and impeccably tended. They will suffer when the seas grow deeper at the threat of global warming. They are beautifully green and very vulnerable. I paint them over and over again in appreciative remembrance of their flatness, their beauty and their vulnerability as a memorial for when they are gone”.

  • Ocean/Heavy Water:  

“Seven tenths of the surface of the planet Earth are covered by water and it is expected that global warming will increase that figure. We watch and measure and contemplate the seas warily in all their manifestations, tides, swells, surfs, depths, storms, and the making and breaking of continents, and we wonder at their power and their endless beauty and their unlimited bounty”.

  • Shells:  

“Holland is a beach divided between the influences of salt-water and sweet-water. Its beaches are littered with shells. We measure them, exhibit them, lay them out in display. You can find them far inland, evidence that all was once covered in water and evidence that all might be covered in water yet again”

  • Atomic disaster: 

“It is an irony that there have been three atomic disasters in peacetime, created not by war or aggression but by human error and natural disaster - hot, mechanical, erosive; Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011.  The effects of these disasters apparently will be with us forever, a true warning of the power we have created whilst we inevitably wait for nuclear power to destroy us – for it surely will one day”.

  • The Children of Uranium: 

“These paintings of Isaac Newton, Joseph Smith, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Nikita Khrushchev, Mikail Gorbarchov and George Bush are metaphorical portraits of eight celebrated persons who became entangled in the history of uranium. They could indeed by described as The Children of Uranium”.

  •  Pompeii:

“We are all fascinated by Pompeii, the Italian city buried in the detritus of a volcano – fire, lava, tufa, explosion, burial, survivors, erotic carnality, wall painting, the colour of Pompeian Red, mortality, immortality, the Roman Empire. I have painted aspects of that everlasting fascination in the lottery of what perishes and what survives”

  • The Chinese Connection: 

“I am fascinated by Chinese 19th century genealogical painting that demonstrates amongst much else, ancestry and wealth based often around the powerful symbol of the trapezium, two dimensional geometric shape that often suggests three dimensions. There are many paintings of the production of an Occidental imagination influenced by this Oriental heritage”.

  • Rembrandt’s Women: 

“I live in Amsterdam, Holland, Rembrandt’s city, where many street corners, bridges, churches and canals are the same as they were in 1642 when Rembrandt painted The Nightwatch and where he lived and loved the three women of his life, Saskia, Geertje and Hendrickje. He painted all three of these women in his studio on the Jodenbreestraat, possibly all three in the very same room. Humbly I paint them too”

  •  Eisenstein in Mexico: 

“The great Soviet Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein went to Mexico in 1931 to make a film called Que Viva Mexico. He was excited by Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage of Mayan and Aztec culture and he made many drawings – often erotic – to satisfy his interest. Here is my collection of drawings inspired by his inspiration”. 

Peter Greenaway 2016.