Peter Griffin British, 1947-2020

Ideally, I would like to think that paintings ask questions rather than give answers and that they deal in the area of poetry rather than that of reportage.

Peter Griffin

Leading contemporary painter Peter Griffin has been painting for over forty years and has earned international recognition for his work. Pattern, colour and form coupled with traces of memory come together to express a moving yet quiet poetic beauty. 

The artist shares that he feels an affinity with historic artists such as Velasquez, Goya, and El Greco. As well the modernist work of Pablo Picasso, Antoni Tàpies, Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko have a particular resonance. In Griffin’s work, there is a similar treatment of symbols. Pictographic images and signs allows a powerful sense of the sublime to emerge, a form of modern mediation laid out in graphic yet painterly terms. The artist describes this as a “fusion of abstraction and figuration” evoking a distilled essence of being. 

Griffin begins with a series of quick rough sketches, the final form only emerging through an organic process of becoming — within the act of painting. He builds his layers of colour gradually allowing an ambiguity of space and atmospheric effect, and within these planes we come upon traces that seem as if ghostly fossils, residues of the past, hidden symbols imprinted across the picture. Some works include a pouring and dripping of paint, whereas others include mixed dry pigment, collage elements and stitched objects. On occasion, the artist includes lettering and text, deepening the enigmatic yet reductive appearance of the work. New work includes an emphasis on line, a simplified abstract form perfectly yet imperfectly complemented by traces of archaic symbols and calligraphic mark making. Spaces delineated by uneven and even partitioning of the composition complicate and intrigue. Memory appears to float across areas of pure colour, occasionally intersected by texture and unexpected elements. 

Throughout his long career, Griffin shares that poetry, the sea, islands and the influence of the feminine inform his work. Specific themes include the work of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and the enduring influence of important women in the artist’s life including his mother, grandmother and late wife. As well, a connection to the history and beauty of Rome remains at the centre of the artist’s work. The artist explains: “The common link between these various influences is time and the mystery of life. What it means to be alive. But it is not that these paintings are prescriptive. I am not offering any answers in these paintings. I only hope that I can achieve a kind of visual poetry which may allow people to reflect on these elements.”

Griffin’s unique approach has a reductive yet elegant distillation of form that creates a mysterious choreography of suggested expression, this is the idea of essence that the artist refers to, a moment in time that seems at once full of life, and yet understated, inscribed by memory and archaic trace. Through a masterful pairing of composition and form, Griffin has created a powerful and distinctive series of images and visual language. 

 

Rosa JH Berland