Peter Nelson: Architect of the Ethereal - Art Collector

Issue 52, April - June 2010

In Peter Nelson’s rigorously studied imaginary landscapes, you’ll find influences as diverse as Chinese scroll painting and wheelie bins writes Carrie Miller. And much like the Chinese traditions he draws on, his works invite quiet meditation on the architecture of space and balance.

Peter Nelson is an emerging artist whose methodical approach to his practice isn’t surprising considering his stellar academic performance as an art student. He graduated with first class honours in 2006 and was also awarded the prestigious University Medal. In the short time he has been practising as a professional artist he has also shown promise – reaching the finals of the Metro 5 Art Award in 2008. Nelson explains his rigorous work ethic the following way: “I am always curious of other artists whose work relates to what I am doing. When I get interested in a particular artist or period I tend to study it very intensely, researching everything I can get on the subject in the hope that it will help with what I am working with in the studio. These obsessions change, and I move on. The most recent and enduring of these has been Chinese painting.”

To this end, Nelson spent six months travelling and working as an artist in China in 2009 including as artist-in-residence with Red Gate Gallery in Beijing.

He is particularly preoccupied with the literati painters of the Yuan dynasty who emphasised spiritual essence over representational likeness. Why this preoccupation with a historical Chinese practice? Nelson – whose images are also unconcerned with illustrating any specific likeness – explains: “My interest stemmed from an ongoing concern with the invented or conceptualised landscape. In recent years I have constructed paintings and drawings based on a conscious arrangement of landscape forms within fabricated environments and fictitious worlds. The rearrangement of set forms in Chinese painting – mountains, trees and water – provides me with a fascinating insight into the poetry of the invented landscape.”

In particular, his work is concerned with the arrangement of landscape elements such as trees, rocks, as well as manmade objects in space, which is what much of the Chinese tradition is about. And while the pictures he references are from a different time and place, he claims “their concerns were very close to my own, and so I began to investigate them further. The idea of these Chinese paintings as conceptual visions of imaginary studio-made landscapes presents itself as relevant to many artists working with invented and imaginary worlds.”

In his current exhibition, the works on paper trade in the fragmentation of forms, with references to construction, to industry and urban forms, all strongly influenced by Nelson’s time in China. They will be accompanied by sculptures made from cardboard which directly reference the works on paper, in particular the plein air drawings the artist made in the mountains of Hunan province.

Jason Martin, director of Flinders Street Gallery which represents Nelson, has been impressed enough with the young artist that he’s given him three shows in less than three years. Martin was “initially impressed by Peter’s drawing skills”. The work is ethereal yet contains a well-structured sense of space,” Martin says. He also points to the “intimate quality” of the work that audiences seem to respond to. It’s likely that collectors will too.

Share this page: