From Anti-Paros’, Cyclades, Greek Islands
Peter Wright: An appreciation by Peter Shea.
Lecturer in Psychology at Cambridge University and Birkbeck College, London University.

The essence of a work of art is in its singularity. Each painting stands alone, offering its unique communication. The artist’s next picture too, differing little or much, will have its own individuality. The artist from painting to painting, moves on. This selection of Peter to moves on. This selection of Peter Wright’s work, plots his creative path since leaving art school. Each painting is an exploration of technique, materials, images, ideas and feelings. When completed, it suggests to the artist possible ways ahead.

Born on the eastern edge of London bordering Epping Forest, as a child he walked the family dog along its winding tracks midst the mature beeches oaks and silver birch. A deep affection for trees and for landscape was nourished here. His early love of art was encouraged at Grammar School and broadened and deepened at the St. Martin’s School of Art (1949-1953). Then and since, Peter has acknowledged the significance in his development of many artists, writers and musicians.

As a student at St Martins’ the presence of the National Gallery just down the road strengthened his propensity for landscape and increased the influence of Turner, Constable, Cezanne and Paul Nash. Pero della Francesca, David Bomberg and William Blake also exerted diverse influences and later came John Sell Cotman and Georges Seurat. After graduation Peter taught for a while in Leicestershire and then Hertfordshire before being drawn, in 1970, to the Isle of Wight. Here, in Bembridge, he built his studio, did full, then part-time teaching and settled with his wife Joy to raise and support their family. As soon as he could, he turned to full-time painting.

From student days to the present travelling at home and abroad has filled his sketch books, inspired his colour sense and determined his choice of imagery. Conscription into the army took him to Catterick and the exquisite landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales. Teaching in Hertfordshire brought East Anglia and its coasts with reach and his love of landscape walking alone was extended to shorelines, horizons and seascapes.

During his student years he had made his first journeys to the Mediterranean coasts of France, Spain and Italy. The deep blue of the sea was never forgotten although it was some years before it was reflected in his paintings. In the 1960s he acquired share of a cottage to the west of Plynlimon in Central Wales. This, together with visits to Greece generated an attachment to lakes, islands and reservoirs. Through the years he has returned frequently to the Mediterranean countries but France, where he has exhibited several times, has been the major attraction and has inspired many paintings.

From the insightful figure sketches of fellow conscripts in his first sketch book, Peter has worked at figure drawing all his life but with few and brief excursions into portraiture. From the early sixties his paintings have derived exclusively from landscapes and seascapes. He has sought for a visual counterpart to that quality of Englishness found in the writings of such as Edward Thomas, Thomas Hardy and from the work of the New England poet Robert Frost. The music of English composers Purcell, Delius and Elgar through to the modem compositions of Britten and Tippett have all influenced the direction of Peters creativity. Human life and habitation began to disappear quite naturally and without anxiety from his work his landscapes reached out to express the still, cold, centre of the earth. He likes to quote Lawrence Durrell’s assertion that ‘landscapes make people, not people landscapes’.

Abstraction in art poses challenges to both artist and viewer. Easily recognisable photographic images of people and places are non-demanding and popular. The artist moving into abstract representation of experiences, concepts, essences of the spirit and feelings faces the unknown. Abstraction makes greater demands of the art lover but offers more layers of satisfaction intellectual, sensual and aesthetic. Peter has time and again been pulled towards the abstract only then to draw back for a while. Figures and buildings have disappeared.

Paint has been laid on so thickly that images lose their definition midst the welter of colour. Lines have hardened into edges creating seascape or plough patterns. Further steps into abstraction and contemplation of his paintings take intellect to the edge in the search for reality and aesthetic emotional and spiritual acceptance, often beyond description. They increasingly invite the rewards of contemplation.

It has been Peter’s practice, before picking up a brush, to plot his pictures using architectural grids of horizontal and vertical mathematical divisions. Halves, quarters, thirds, fifths and their intersecting points, taking cognisance of the golden mean ensuring balance and harmony between elements of the picture. Horizontal and vertical designs are set against mythmic, rounded forms. As Peter has moved deeper into abstraction these grids have become less and less elaborate until only verticals, often plotting the trunks of trees, have been left accompanied by horizon. The horizon, ever-present in recent years has become stronger, straighter and significant as it divides more paintings into blocks of colour.

The move towards minimalist configuration, has been balanced by an aesthetically exciting explosion of enthusiasm for colour. Like Van Gogh, Peter began his professional life using thick, sombre oils. Numerous transitions have followed over the years. Oils gave way to acrylic paints and then back again. Thick dark media gave way to thin. Dark tones were replaced by primary colours and secondaries, orange, green, mauve and so on. In the sixties there was a period of black and white paintings. Strong dark colours are contrasted with very light areas and there is the harmonic juxtaposition of close tones.

Peter has arrived at the decision that colour is the thing that matters most in painting. If and what it represents does not greatly matter ‘if a painting is not about colour it is not about anything’. As design has simplified expanses of colour have expanded to communicate their music. Peter starts his working day by switching his radio on to the BBCs third programme. His art is nourished by his love of the classics and of modem jazz (his other ambition was to be a jazz saxophonist). He envies composers for not needing to attach pictorial labels to their compositions. Even when they do the music remains pure abstraction.

Peter Wright is more than a painter, he is a craftsman. His studio is his workshop. He enjoys deeper pleasure in creating a painting when he is able to control the total process from preparing the canvas, paper or boards, from painting to the edges, from making mounts and frames to picking up the picture in his outstretched hands and knows that he has created the total artefact. He has for many years limited himself to ‘man sized paintings’. It has to be said the pleasure of being able to carry his own paintings is strengthened nowadays by the necessity of being able to get them in the back of his trusty Citroen. The need to transport pictures safely to galleries and exhibitions throughout Britain and in France makes size a critical factor.

If singularity is the essence of a work of art, it is also the dominant characteristic of a lover of paintings. When the unique painting corresponds with the singular appreciation of the viewer, a lifelong relationship of giving and taking pleasure picture and between person may be established. Peter Wright has exhibited in numerous galleries and exhibitions in Britain and Europe. His pictures are giving pleasure, will continue to and do so, to owners all over the world.

‘The Four Seasons’. Lake Vyrnwy, Wales.