|Education||in the National Gallery School, Melbourne|
Peter Booth (born 2 November 1940 in Sheffield, England) is an Australian figurative and a surrealist painter, and one of the key late-20th-century Australian artists. His work is characterised by an intense emotional power of often dark narratives, and esoteric symbolism.
Born the son of a miner, the industrial surrounds of Sheffield influenced him from an early age. He and his family migrated to Australia in 1958, where he worked as a labourer for several years before attending the National Gallery School in Melbourne. In the 1980s Booth started his phase of horrifying figures, for example mutilated bodies and war scenes (sometimes with a light touch of humour), yet he always conveys a strong feeling in his art. It is even possible to almost feel what the main "character" is feeling. This also reflects his dreams as some of his works are based upon dreams, which could also categorise him as a surrealist painter.
Booth's subject matter largely concerns the Australian landscape, both urban and rural, and the relationship between environment and individual, as well as the individual's capacity to create and destroy. And also what the world will be like in the future, humans as mutants.
Booth's landscapes are charged with emotion and symbolic meaning. Memories of his childhood in the blackened industrial landscape of Sheffield seem to infuse the work, especially his well-known apocalyptic figurative paintings, which look like images of the end of the world; illustrations for The Book of Revelation. These images contain an intense image of anxiety, evoking the aftermath of some terrible destruction, vividly pictured with menacing forms and agitated, heavily applied brushstrokes.
An example is Painting 1978 which has been described as challenging and disturbing the viewer by the artist's choice of colour and method of painting. "The dramatic black and red, yellow and white composition suggests both an industrial and a natural wasteland". The heavy impasto paint texture describes, with vigour and intensity, flames, explosions, and unidentified nightmarish images. Contradictory forces pull us into the central inferno below the glacial mountain peaks, and showers of rock explode towards us.
Is it the artist himself who stands with his back to us, mesmerised by the scene, while grotesque metamorphosing figures stare out at us?" Peter Booth has centred many of his paintings around his childhood in Sheffield England where he grew up during the war years and their aftermath.
Notes and references
- http://www.nga.gov.au/Federation/Detail.cfm?WorkID=60888 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra