||For over forty years, Peter Booth has produced works which allude to the darkness of human nature. They convey a tension which is common to all beings and yet isolates them from one another. The spectacular visual power of Booth’s immense, mysterious and often disturbing narratives has commanded sustained critical attention and an international reputation.
Whilst the complex relationships between figures in Booth’s work defy a straightforward explanation, the struggle between man and his natural setting is constant across the paintings and drawings. Oppressive skies, burning wrecks and monstrous human figures appear frequently in Booth’s visual vocabulary. Often, Booth’s thick, layered images suggest that man continues to be overcome by the power of nature despite his own destructive tendencies.
Rendered sensitively in charcoal, or in heavy impasto pastel which recalls the thickness of his paintings, the drawings in MEMORIES describe scenes both real and imagined. They evoke moments in cultural history as well as referring to the deeply personal. They speak of events witnessed, and those which spring from the depths of the unconscious mind. To view Booth’s works on paper as ‘working drawings’, as sketches toward his painted works, is to overlook their intrinsic power. These vignettes convey an energy beyond their size. They condense the absurdity of violence into a cameo; or they illustrate the potential for human dignity in a potent and humbling form.
These highly-charged, yet ambiguous scenes are heavy with Booth’s distinctive symbolism. In many of the drawings, the landscape itself becomes a character. The environment – both built and natural– exudes a force as strong as man’s. Whilst the works are imbued with bleakness, they are not entirely without hope. Flecks of colour and light ignite the restrained palette of greys and blacks; moments of laughter and collegiality – comfort in our being part of a society – appear as flashes from the grim darkness. These moments are a refuge from the horrors of our imagination.
From his early, hard-edge abstractions to his energised and dense figurative paintings, Peter Booth has remained one of Australia’s most acclaimed artists. A major retrospective of his work entitled Human Nature, curated by Jason Smith, was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2005. Booth’s work is represented in many significant public and private collections in Australia and abroad; including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; the Art Gallery of Western Australia; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and the Centro Cultural-Arte in Mexico.