Drawing from traditions like Romanticism, 17th Century Dutch landscape painting and Modern Australian masters such as Arthur Streeton, Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams, Peter Simpson works within an historical framework to perpetuate his effervescent belief in the contemporary validity of the oft-overlooked landscape genre. From the quiet majesty of undulating pasturelands to the soaring sublimity of coastal cliffs, Simpson’s paintings reveal the diametric forces that define our nuanced continent, ultimately capturing the elusive soul of the Australian environment.
In his new collection of paintings, ‘Water Through Trees’, Simpson explores familiar landscapes seen in unexpected ways. The series began with a chance sighting of North Head from the back seat of a taxi on a late summer’s afternoon. The seductive beauty of the golden afternoon glow sprinkled on that familiar headland compelled the artist to create the first work in the series. Simpson then moved around Sydney harbour in search of more subjects to invigorate that initial impression. Materialising sensory impressions, he renders painterly tableaux that celebrate the poetry of the Australian shoreline. Anthropomorphic trees use their barky limbs to guide our eyes into tender vignettes of the harbour blanketed by the ubiquitous hazy summer sky. Consciously influenced by a pantheon of historical artists – from the Italianate landscapes of Claude Lorraine to the scratchy calligraphy of Cy Twombley – Simpson’s new collection of landscapes also bring to mind the warm, painterly impressions of Cezanne and the figurative landscapes of Brett Whitely. Working slowly in the studio, the artist lets each work grow organically like the ever-evolving physiognomy of the land.