08.05.14 – 21.06.14
Deep Chine is an exhibition of new paintings and marks Peter Eastman’s first solo show with SMAC Gallery.
The Cape Town based Eastman has earned a reputation as an experimental painter, using a variety of techniques and media to constantly expand his practice. Eastman’s substrate of choice is aluminium, to which he applies amongst other things; chrome, enamel, resin, wax, graphite and oil paint – reworking, scraping, incising and profiling the surface to create unique paintings poised between representation and abstraction.
For Eastman, his surroundings and environment have a profound influence on his work. Subjects are taken from lived interiors, cityscapes, studio views, family photographs and landscapes that are known to him. Eastman disassembles the image and reconstitutes it to form an entirely new picture which bears a vague semblance to the original, but for the viewer there is an uncanny familiarity and connection to the content, which is suffused with opaque moods and dreamlike memory. New shapes and forms emerge through the process of gradual fragmentation. Despite his ambitious and bold employment of base-colours in the new works, Eastman’s compositions remain mostly mono- or duo-chromatic. Subtle lines and shapes are articulated by thin ridges of paint or resin which disrupt the surface, giving the works dimension and complexity in relief. This allows for different views and interpretations depending on the light and angle from which the work is approached.
In the current digital age, where technology is widely accessible and various digital image editing programs allow for infinite forms of visual manipulation, the reconfiguration of images is widespread. It is possible to produce a myriad of special effects such as blasting, blurring, pixelating and other forms of distortion which new abstract painting often attempts to interpret or mimic, resulting in superficially seductive, ‘re-modernised’ imagery. However, these works lack some of the intangible qualities which lie at the heart of real painting. Peter Eastman’s paintings retain a painterly quality where the sensitivity, brushstroke, touch and feel of the artist are inherent to the work, thereby transcending the intriguing technical innovations which are in themselves original and distinct.
Deep Chine contains a variety of works ranging from large-scale, dark interiors to metallic chrome works, signature silhouettes and the new atmospheric, contemplative and ambient forestscapes – from which the exhibition takes its title. A ‘chine’ is a steep sided river valley, through which a river flows to the sea, softly eroding cliffs of sandstone. It is in a constant state of change due to erosion from landslides, as the walls of the chine, being steep and made of sandstone are naturally unstable. Deep Chine is also the name of Eastman’s family farm (belonging to his late grandfather), which he has visited every year since his childhood and, contrary to the implications of its name, represents a constant for the artist who has lived in different parts of the country and abroad.
In an era when environmental concerns have become increasingly important in contemporary artistic discourse, many artists have inadvertently or intentionally conveyed a strong spiritual connection (in a non-romantic, post-utopian sense) to nature through their work, for example Joseph Beuys, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Anselm Kiefer, David Hockney and Peter Doig, to name a few. The idea of retreating to the forest to find inspiration may be dismissed by the more cynical types, especially at a time where such experiences are extremely rare, however, when confronted by the simplicity, lightness, delicacy and strength of Eastman’s new paintings, the viewer is transported to a place of meditative immersion, where the opportunity arises for an experience which is profound and in some way akin to that of the artist:
“All of the river paintings in the show are based on photographs I have taken in the river of this steep forested valley. In preparing for the show, I spent some time alone at the cabin on Deep Chine, the cabin being in a small overgrown clearing without electricity or piped water, so it already feels remote to be there. The forest and the river has always held an attraction for me, the strange feelings, sometimes slightly ominous when I would go into the deep parts of the valley. I had had dreams while I was there; where I woke up in the night with a feeling of panic that I would not come out of the forest, as if somewhere in the act of being deep in the forest, I would lose memory and identity while walking down the river and not be able to ever come back. In the morning I walked down to the river. As I descended to the valley floor, about a 20 minute walk, I slipped into the feelings of the dream. These feelings would come and go in more or less intensity as I walked down the river knee deep in the water taking photographs. For a forest that is full of life, the walk in the river was absolutely quiet, apart from the sound of myself moving slowly through the water. The atmosphere felt calm and also of unease. The reflected light felt something like electric impulses in the wet forest. It is these various feelings of calm and unease and of dissociation that I have tried to convey in the paintings. It has something of a river Styx type of feeling to it, but also just a beautiful and strange place.”
The exhibition will run until 21 June 2014.