Peter Brooke: Sanctuary
April 26 – May 25 at Gallery NAGA
Peter Brooke returns to Gallery NAGA with a new body of work, Sanctuary, which showcases an imaginatively reconstructed travelogue of the artist’s past two years. Brooke’s adventures served a muse for his further exploration of atmospheric skyscapes and dark woodscapes hinted at in his last show- a shift in direction from his usual deep and panoramic seascapes. Peter Brooke’s inspiration can in part be credited to his month long residency in Northeast Harbor, Maine, funded by Richard Estes’ Acadia Foundation.
Despite this fresh source of inspiration, Brooke, as always, manages to draw viewers into a world of imaginary scenery capturing not only the physical beauty inspired by places such as Acadia National Park in Maine and the Teton Mountains, but the evanescence of each momentary feeling. The absence of any figures or human life allows viewers to become solitary characters in each new environment, allowing them to mediate on the tension between nature and the intangible emotion of impermanence it inspires. In paintings like Tandem and Teewinot, the layering and removal of oil paint evokes an ethereal essence through peaking mountaintops emerging from a hazy fog; Mortise and Leviathan, conversely, draw upon the use of filtered light and a restricted palette to enhance the dark woodscapes.
Peter Brooke plays with the juxtaposition of sharp, hard edges and misty atmospheres in order to invent positive and negative space in each piece. Dimension is further generated through the absence of light, shadows, darkness, and singular strong beams of direct and reflected sunlight shining through otherwise delicate lighting. The masses of rocks and mountains are rendered not by their physical shapes, but by the shadows and highlights that define and surround them, while ghostly trees appear in the foregrounds and backgrounds adding to the sense of aloneness. This distinction between solid mass and passing light is left unclear, adding to the ever-present question of permanence.
These paintings continue the idea of identification with the natural world, representing the fully formed maturation of Brooke’s initial reactions to the landscape captured on paper. Brooke describes his style as “pure, memory-based,” creating work from the images that resonate personally. In his scenes from the Teton Mountains, Brooke recalls being particularly struck by the sight of the mountains during wildfires and the way in which these massive three-dimensional forms veiled in smoke appeared to be reduced onto a single plane. Brooke translated this memory, creating paintings of the mountains in which the smoke “reduces the solidity of the solid object.”
Peter Brooke not only depicts these scenic imaginations on wood panel, but on paper as well. These renditions, available for viewing in the back room of Gallery NAGA, reflect Brooke’s immediate reactions to the landscape and formed the basis for his larger works on panel.