Peter Gibson Smith
23 June - 12 August

Disaster comes in many forms: the movement of tectonic plates, the eruption of a volcano, a flood, a plague, humankind.  What comes after is a wasteland. But that’s not the end…

Wasteland is a musing on the cyclical theme of disaster and regeneration by Auckland-based artist, Peter Gibson Smith.  The exhibition features a selection of large scale works on paper, which are representative of the artist’s practice of the last four years.

Using photographic evidence of local disasters as a starting point, Peter manipulates these image to create alternative or fake histories.  Through this process the source images are disconnected with the historical event and ‘truthfulness’ that they originally described.  

Well known nineteenth century photographs of subjects from the Tarawera eruption (1886) to the Crimean War (1853 – 56) are pictorially deconstructed and reassembled with artefacts from another era: a Mars rover vehicle, a Wellington rail tunnel, a classical style sculptural bust.  These objects are symbolic of the technological achievements of a given era.  By placing these symbols within a wasteland, however, the artist draws attention to the inevitable rise and fall of empires.  This is a relevant and poignant observation given recent events such as the Christchurch earthquakes (2010 – 11) and the financial crisis in Greece – the birthplace of the modern Western world.

These collages are ‘flattened’ or ‘fixed’ into realistic images using a mysterious and idiosyncratic technique.  The artist uses computer-imaging software to create a collaged scene. This scene is then ‘drawn’ with millions of pencil lines on paper using a plotting machine; a now obsolete printing technology used by architects and engineers.  This drawing is then preserved with layers of beeswax, which sublimates the image below a semi-opaque surface.  This creates a sepia-toned parchment effect, which enhances the fidelity of the artist’s creation and merges the traditions of drawing, painting and computer technologies.

Peter Gibson Smith (b. 1961) graduated from the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland in 1983.  His work was the subject of a national touring solo exhibition in the mid-1990s, which established his reputation as a “post-modern mannerist”*  with a penchant for idiosyncratic materials and experimental processes.  Peter was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1993 and the Wallace Arts Award in 2001. He is represented by Bath Street Gallery, Auckland.

* Justin Paton (1996), ‘Bathers: Dome Installation #23’ by Peter Gibson Smith.’ Whanganui: Sarjeant Gallery.

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