b. 1963, Murrurundi
Lives and works in Melbourne
'Atkins does not intend to exaggerate the importance of an object, sign or symbol, instead he sets out to invest it with a new or altered meaning, in the process divesting (although never denying) it of its heritage. Like David Lynch’s cinematic vignettes of the small and banal, or Raymond Carvers vivid narrations of everyday feelings and occurrences. Atkins illuminates the extraordinary in the ordinary, quietly reassessing the familiar in order to endow it with the capacity for fresh understanding and renewed significance.’
- Felicity Fenner
Peter Atkins is a leading Australian contemporary artist and an important representative of Australian art in the International arena. Over the past twenty five years he has exhibited in Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Mexico. He has been described as 'a cultural nomad' by the former director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Daniel Thomas, 'an obsessive psychological wanderer' by curator Simeon Kronenberg, 'a visual anthropologist' by the director of Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia, Alex Baker, 'a visual terrorist' by Spanish Curator and arts writer Paco Barragan and 'a hyper-caffeinated bowerbird' by arts writer Ashley Crawford.
Atkins’ practice centers around the appropriation and re-interpretation of readymade abstract forms that he documents within the urban environment. This collected material becomes the direct reference source for his work, providing tangible evidence to the viewer of his relationship and experience within the landscape. Particular interest is paid to the cultural associations of forms that have the capacity to trigger within the viewer, memory, nostalgia or a shared history of past experiences. Recent projects including 'Disney Color Project', 'Hume Highway Project', ‘Station to Station’ and ‘Polaroid Project’ evoke within the viewer our collective, cultural recall. Over the past decade he has used the term 'readymade abstraction' to describe his practice. A term he coined to define the space between non-objective abstraction and representation. Peter states that ‘My work could be described as an amalgamation of Modernisms attention to process and materials, Pop Arts re-contextualization of mundane mass cultural objects, Minimalisms desire to achieve simplicity through the elimination of all non essential features and Post Modernisms re-examination, appropriation and deconstruction of all that has gone before. These amorphous boundaries are a calculated attempt to blur the distinction between High Art, Low Art and popular culture.’
His work is represented in the collections of every major Australian State Gallery including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney as well as prominent Institutional, Corporate and Private collections both Nationally and Internationally. In 2010 his solo exhibition for Tolarno Galleries at the Melbourne Art Fair titled Hume Highway Project was purchased in its entirety for The Lyon Collection in Melbourne.
IN STEREO / 2017
ARTIST STATEMENT -
GAGPROJECTS is excited to present PETER ATKINS’ sixth solo exhibition in our gallery with IN STEREO. Peter Atkins is a prominent Australian artist who has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and internationally over the last thirty years.
‘Atkins describes his practice as ’readymade abstraction’. Appropriating designs drawn from sources as diverse as product packaging, highway road signage and mid-twentieth century jazz album covers, he pares back extraneous details – typically removing text and any representational imagery – and reduces it to an abstract composition in which line, form and colour exist in a finely calibrated visual harmony.’
- Kirsty Grant, 2015, ‘Chaos and Order’ SCAPE8, catalogue essay.
Peter Atkins is a graduate of the National Art School, Sydney (1985), he currently lives and works in Melbourne. Atkins has been included in several major exhibitions including: SCAPE8 Biennale, Christchurch (2015); Melbourne Now, NGV, Melbourne (2014); Contemporary Encounters, NGV (2010); and Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, NGV (2009).
His work is represented in the collections of every major Australian state gallery including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and various institutional, corporate and private collections both nationally and internationally.
SILENCE / 2014
ARTIST NOTES -
It seems contrary to write a catalogue essay about an exhibition titled Silence — for this exhibition is a plea for quiet, for the removal of unnecessary visual noise. Erasure, a visual affiliate of silence, has long been a preoccupation for Peter Atkins. The starting point for his work is an encounter with an object which he then alters by removing extraneous text and visual details. It is a form of deconstruction, where the final object reveals what the artist describes as the “essential abstract elements”. The newly conceived artwork signifies something inherent to the original whilst creating a distance between the viewer and the object’s prior status as a commodity. There is often an experience of the object as something recognisable, but impossible to locate. In practice, Atkins has devised a method where the existing (but largely unconscious) collective appreciation for abstract patterning comes alive. Atkins offers an unexpected avenue for the interpretation of these found compositions.
The exhibition is based on a series of record covers, united by subtle but distinctive graphic devices. The isolated forms are mostly lines; their original purpose was to frame, underline or divide the names of headline acts. Through a merciless process of blocking, Atkins has reworked the original albums, highlighting these idiosyncratic linear forms. The collages are cut and pasted with black cardboard taken from other record covers so that the final image is a luscious patchwork of blacks. These deconstructions reveal startlingly new minimal compositions.
The paintings are smooth and pitch black, verging on monochromatic, with flickers of bright yellow, pink or white. They appear in stark contrast to the original covers; a garish photo of Liberace; a syrupy portrait of Cleo Lane; a bizarre assortment of lips upon microphones. The lines appear like neon lighting on the black backdrops. They are surprisingly resonant. In one instance, white and pink lines on the cover of the Romeo and Juliet album assume a symbolic association with the story. Elsewhere, a curved corner shape on a Bee Gees cover is redolent of the disco era. Susan Sontag reminds us in her essay “The Aesthetics of Silence”
Perhaps the quality of the attention we bring to bear on something will be better (less contaminated, less distracted) the less we are offered...purged by silence, one might then be able to begin to transcend the frustrating selectivity of attention, with its inevitable distortions of experience.1
For people accustomed to noise, this idea of pure silence is practically inconceivable. At one point during the visit to Peter at his studio, there was a monumental shattering of glass bottles, presumably the spoils from the nearby pub. I flinched, but Peter hadn’t even registered the noise. “I didn’t even hear that”, he said, describing the extent of the ambient noise pollution in his neighbourhood. No wonder then, that the records from these sleeves go straight to the bin.
Through this narrative of transformation – from album covers to paintings, the final works convey a comparative idea of silence. More broadly, they speak of a kind of quietude or modesty. These compositions are undoubtedly the artist’s most minimal to date.