Peter Seal – Paintings
Peter Seal’s paintings result from a process of both deconstruction and reconfiguration. Each begins with the idea of an image and the nature of its constituent marks, visualised in a preparatory drawing. Then, on a canvas of pristine whiteness, or one stained in subtle tonal variation, the artist puts down an enlarged version of the image in acrylic paint. Subsequently, this canvas is cut into sections and stitched back together to form an entirely new compositional arrangement, that of the finished work. There are stages in between, involving photography and small collage studies, the resultant paintings dependent on highly developed pictorial design combined with rigorous craftsmanship.
Many of these fifteen recent canvases are painted in black, occasionally with subsidiaries of red, green or burnt orange. Seal has a particular relationship with the expressive potential of black. He cites reference points in those Matisse interiors in which black predominates, such as Interior with a Violin (1918); also a scene from the black and white film Man of Aran (1934), in which a fisherman repairs his boat, dipping fabric into a pot of pitch, then caressing it into place with his fingers, his hand starkly white against the darkness of the boat’s hull.
There is great variety in these paintings, of surface texture, line, edge, and of inter-relationships of positive and negative shape. Integral to all of this is the physicality of paint and colour, its optical weight and vibrancy. Contrast for instance the tensile elegance of those silhouetted shapes in Gweek with Daphne with the dry-brushed gestural sensuality of Black Cab. Then consider too the heraldic orange of Handjive, its caryatid-like structure not wholly dissimilar to that of Black Cab, but entirely different in effect. Also here are several blue paintings, each establishing its own architectural dynamics of shape and texture. Of them the formal twists and turns of The Comedians appears especially close to sculpture, and one is reminded how Seal has recently turned to the production of small-scale bronzes, works clearly informed by his highly seductive canvases.
Text © Ian Massey, 2020
Images © Peter Seal
Text commissioned by Anthony Hepworth Fine Art, for the publication Peter Seal, September 2020.