The expressive paintings of Sydney-based artist Peter Simpson map the vast topographies of the Australian landscape. From the golden glow of undulating pasturelands to rugged coastal cliffs scarred with the lashes of time, the works evoke a kind of sublime mundane that prompts us to look a little closer at our surroundings. Consciously engaging with historical ancestors of landscape painting – from Romantic painters and Matisse to Modern Australian masters like Arthur Streeton, Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams – Simpson reveals the contemporary significance of a genre that traces the ever-changing face of our environment.
The paintings in ‘Canopy’ cipher the beauty of the artist’s local landscape, specifically referencing a small square at the end of Sydney’s Thurlow Street, just down from the artist’s front door. For Simpson, this unassuming setting is a fount of inspiration: ‘I step into a kind of Wonderland when I enter that little space with its canopy of plane trees, robinias, white cedars and celtis australis. It’s a journey that has just begun.’
There are moments of abstraction in Simpson’s animated brushstrokes and visceral drips, while a sense of the surreal penetrates his palette of lilacs and limes. Seasonal shifts make themselves known in these timeless portraits – winter greys, autumn ochres and spring greens evoking vivid sensory associations. Symbolic proxies for the painter, Simpson’s trees bridge the divide between man and Mother Earth.
Each tree becomes a lone protagonist standing firm in an increasingly urbanised world. The artist reflects, ‘my use of the tree as metaphor is aimed not just at attempting to heighten our awareness of the protection we must bestow upon the environment in a global sense, but to tend to the very streets on which we live.