Peter Hendrick

My art practice has covered a wide range over the past 40 years in media and subject matter including sculpture, set design and instrument making. My current work focuses in three areas, figurative painting including portraits, landscape painting and printmaking. The figurative painting takes a critical look at the social conventions which are imposed by contemporary culture and the validity of those conventions. Portraits engage similar issues and represent a declaration of how we want to be seen by posterity. My landscape painting is almost exclusively made outdoors from life and allows me to directly engage natural phenomena including light and colour. Printmaking for me is an extension of drawing and most recently has focused on aquatint as a way to develop pen and ink and wash drawings. I enjoy the physical act of painting and drawing making marks, mixing colours and applying paint. I am also fascinated by contemporary society and how we create meaning in our lives.

The composer Wagner argued that human beings are inescapably social and that we define ourselves by the way we relate to the rest of human society. I find the nuances of this process very complex, fascinating and constantly changing. Social encounters only exist for an instant but they live in memory for long periods of time. In the attics of our memories, our prior experience shapes how we see the social encounter. Many of my figurative paintings can be seen as a central social exchange which is being translated by different memories or symbols also in the painting.

I am very interested in how we present ourselves in society to other people and the codes and conventions we use to communicate non-verbally. From our clothing to our posture, we continuously communicate subtle meanings. As soon as I see people or their clothing or their personal space, I begin to construct a narrative about these people who they are, what they do, what they like, what they fear, how they chose to shape their lives. Most of these paintings deal with my view of contemporary society - what appetites and desires drive our behavior - how that behavior affects others - how we fit into the constructs of accepted society - how societal constructs are changing.

I am also exploring the act of painting. Paint can never capture what we see - a painting will always be and interpretation or a metaphor for visual response. Optical science tells us that human vision works like a camera, that what we really see is a photo-like image complying with all the principles of perspective created by the lens of our eyeball. While the mechanics of the eye are clear, I think the process of seeing is much more complex. Our eyes race around the field of vision zooming in on areas of interest. Many aspects of what we see are ignored while other elements are focused on intensely. As we look, we are constantly comparing objects to similar objects seen before and recalling memories of similar details we have experienced in the past. My paintings are an attempt to represent this process of seeing and the visual process when we recall what we have seen from memory.

Peter Hendrick
January 12, 2008