Peter Robson – Unobtania
8 November – 20 December
Paintings and drawings that critique man’s inhumanity to man, Peter creates a deliberate tension in his work between the brightness of colour and seriousness of the subject matter.
“I have been a professional artist now for five years, after working in the public sector for many years as a Probation Officer and Social Worker. This work has completely informed me about the human condition and how the poor and the dispossessed around the world are completely subjugated by the rich and powerful. With the movement of a paint brash I consider myself lucky to be able to document this. Without being trite, I also consider it really important that artists use the canvas as a medium to inform people of the harsh realities of conflicts around the world but with a clear nod to resolution and peace as well.
Born in Elswick to a working class family in a tough part of town was not the easiest start to life, it did progress in the right direction though. A huge influence on my practice and still is, was the industry on the Tyne and in particular the Elswick Works (Armstrong’s Factory). Ever since being a child, I have drawn, mused, painted and dreamed, however, as a teenager I started to reflect on the horrors of war, extremely relevant being raised next to a munitions factory. In particular the horrendous ‘carpet bombing’ of Vietnam left me numb. This was the start of me presenting, through paintings, politically driven questions to provoke those in power. I would like to think my work questions those that have grabbed power too. Attending my art course at Newcastle Polytechnic gave me the ‘tools’ to continue my work. The net result of this has been ‘Unobtania’, a body of work that critiques man’s inhumanity to man.
Within my work there is a deliberate tension also between the brightness of colour and seriousness of the subject matter, I almost wanted this to be a provocation with bright colours and what is being described by myself and indeed the ‘fauves’ are an influence in this area. People can often consider the vibrancy of my work and that this has been completed with oils. In light of this, a tension also exists from me applying the water colour to the canvas and therefore the viewer is ‘drawn’ in within the final process, the artist I believe should be aware of this and use it to there advantage.
That aside, Britain some would consider had a ‘proud’ history of mills and mining to name a few industries, working class culture within this has sadly eroded through de industrialisation. Clearly, my exhibition not only ‘covers’ the likes of the first world war and the ‘Pals’ Regiments but also, the economic recruitment that has taken place in these working class communities when there was literally no other employment along with this urban decay.
Regarding the work; the first of these five paintings I have named ‘The Soldier’. After visiting Ireland some years ago and in particular Dublin, I was inspired to represent a ‘bloody’ conflict which was to become known as the ‘easter uprising’ in 1916. You will see the tricolor in effect blowing in the wind off a branch, which I guess is a nod to the horrendous famine in the previous century. The resistance fighter I wanted to be made of stone, physically and emotionally. However, there is also within the work a recognition that British men were dying in their millions in the trenches too along with Irish soldiers.
The ‘boots on the ground’ is a reflection of the mantra that politicians still espouse today with ad nausea and infinitum. These ever repeated mantra’s and statements seen by the masses lead to a detachment from the reality that actually thousands of men, women and children are being slaughtered in the likes of Syria by bombings.
‘The Rocket’ again, is a critique on what has happened in the middle east through colonisation. I wanted the painting the ‘Trenches’ to represent an ‘everyman/woman’ picture that applied to the working class. The desolation is also a metaphor of what they came back to with the lack of any after care or indeed, psychiatric care that was in it’s infancy. ‘Catastrophe’ is pretty much self explanatory, more than likely a gas attack!”