Nathan Peter: Garden— at PSM Gallery

Nathan Peter
PSM Gallery
Schöneberger Ufer 61, 10785 Berlin
17 March – 30 May, 2020 Open by appointment only

On the occasion of his third solo exhibition with PSM, Nathan Peter is presenting a new body of works along with his first monograph, published by Hatje Cantz. With the exhibition Garden, Peter continues his characteristic examination of the painting material and classical motifs, while also navigating toward new appropriations and expansion of both content and imagery. During the process of developing new techniques and works, the association with a garden in which the cycle of growth and decay can be observed every year occurred to Peter.

Nathan Peter, I prefer wild gardens, 2020, bitumen lacquer and enamel on linen,280 x 360 cm

The garden can be a place of exquisite refinement or left to run wild, but most importantly it is a space of perpetual transformation. This was a natural extension of Peter’s parallel figurative and abstract bodies of work and a way to combine them freely. The gardener digs physically with bare hands into the earth in order to plant new growth while nurturing pre-existing vegetation and to the best of his ability control or not his understanding of nature.

So too does Peter’s work grow in proportion to his understanding of the material. Studies about light and the fall of folds both pictorially and tactilely take a central role in Peter’s oeuvre. He translates these themes of ephemerality through a reductive way of painting by erasing instead of adding, dissecting—cutting up, unravelling, or grinding away—in order to create something new. The elements of gesture, abstraction, the grid and the figurative all fall under this treatment. The cutting of the canvas is a dissection of those parallel subjects to come to a clearer understanding. Breaking things down to their individual components so that sewing them back together becomes a structural method of integrating these manifold ideas and bodies.

Nathan Peter, ferns, 2019, bitumen lacquer and oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm
Nathan Peter, maille (Detail), 2020, bitumen laquer and enamel on linen, steel rings, Aluminium, 160 x 140 cm

This is reminiscent of grafting, the horticultural technique whereby tissues of different plants are joined so as to continue their growth together. In Garden, Peter presents both new visual inspiration and methods of connection. In the series of works cosmic garden he uses the sewing machine and the sewn thread as a structural order to assemble divided picture elements into new arrangements. Large droplets dripped with turpentine expose the ground of the painting and unify the surface like fresh raindrops on the fallen leaves and petals of the illustrated motifs, while also acting as a visual irritant, like splatters of bleach. Inversely from the painted flora in cosmic garden, the exposed canvas in I prefer wild gardens becomes the fallen leaves and undergrowth of a natural ground. The blocks of color protrude like pavement stones pushed up by a tangle of roots.

In the work maille, this unfolding and pixilation translates into single pieces of painted canvas. The single squares have been reconnected to a unified surface by delicate metal rings, which physically connect but visually disconnect the at once large and opaque surfaces to a porous and delicate matrix. The singular painting mushrooms is a nod to Peter’s continued investigations of the classical still life motif, but does it offer an explanation of the dreamy and wild garden or is it a false narrative? The tactile work, the abstract work, and the figurative work all materially become malleable in the artist’s hands. Not defined by the singular surface or image but an extensive mutability—continually questioning its wholeness and subsequently reconstructing it into new systems and orders of visually and physically fresh paintings.

via press release, PSM Gallery, Berlin
All images © the gallery and the artist(s)