Contemporary Artist Peter Nixon: Inspiration and Style
Park West Gallery artist Peter Nixon works from his studio in London. He’s been inspired by many facets of life – from his early introduction to etching to his encounters with Venice and the movements of a classical dance troupe – and, as he says, “it all goes into the soup.”
Nixon’s newest body of work can be broken into themes, including “Horae,” “Tabla Sensarum,” “Contra Jour in Pearls,” “Moonlit Garden,” “Floating World,” “Vivid Moments,” “Mapping the Heavens,” and “Arpeggio.”
Since he’s not only an artist, but a first-class writer as well, Nixon shared some thoughts exclusively with Park West Gallery on the inspiration, style and themes in his work.
“My work did not have any themes in my early student days until our life-drawing group was taken to a dance troupe’s rehearsal. We were required to produce quick-fire drawings of the dancers going through their paces and I realized what my work required was a feeling of energy.
“Figure studies can look as stiff as statues so I needed the suggestion of human beings in motion and a vibrancy to bring the pictures to life. This, coupled with an interest in Cubism, enabled me to formulate an approach to movement in my work that became the ‘sketch style.’
“This energy translated itself into themes about human beings at the peak of accomplishment; so the pictures became about enthusiasm, joy, love, music and dancing – fleeting states of mind that produce a feeling of being most vividly alive.
On his style…
“I continued to refine this style and, over the years, my work changed and developed in slow increments. The tipping point came during a visit to Venice. I saw the sumptuous textures in the Titians, Veroneses and Bellinis and decided I would attempt to produce paintings that were as vibrant and succulent as these.
“I have been painting this more ornate strand of pictures for about 18 years now, but people who see them for the first time are often surprised by their contrast to the sketch pictures. This style did not arrive overnight and if you were to see the paintings in chronological order you would notice a gradual development.
“Now, all my paintings start in the sketch style but I am free to make these as simple or ornate as the picture suggests. This flexibility leaves the creative field open and is conducive to further developments; happy accidents can lead to new directions.
“The ornate style also allows me to incorporate emblems, images and ‘quotes’ from Master paintings that combine and build into a story. These narratives generally develop during the making of the painting as one image suggests another.
“I remain open to ideas all the time in a kind of concentrated but offhand way. I have learned that being too intense about ideas is not helpful with their flow. I maintain a sort of casual vigilance for things that catch my eye or imagination.
“I take photographs, file images from magazines, books and the internet, and I usually have four or five books on the go in the hope that I will find serendipitous cross-references to generate new ideas when dipping in and out of different worlds and subjects.
“This pursuit of beauty and reinterpreting the wonders of the world is an all-consuming passion and is one of the driving forces behind creating paintings.”