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first light: the art of peter kingston @ s.h.ervin gallery

Peter Kingston c 1990s by Greg Weight

“I have spent countless nights watching the moon reflect upon the water, and the shadow of this great building creating colours and unique impressions each passing day. ” Peter Kingston 

FIRST LIGHT: The Art of Peter Kingston, a major survey exhibition of one of Sydney’s most important artists, opened at the S.H. Ervin Gallery yesterday, Saturday 5 December. The exhibition has been curated by Emeritus Curator of Australian Art at the AGNSW, Barry Pearce,

‘First Light’ will comprise key paintings and drawings from both public and private collections throughout Australia, Peter Kingston’s artist books, memorabilia and nostalgic relics. 

The exhibition arose from a recently published book on the artist Peter Kingston. Its focus begins with the early 1990s,  before which Kingston had already established in Sydney the reputation of an experimental film-maker, satirical illustrator and relentless traveller. 

At the age of 50 an epiphany occurred where he found his own independent voice which was partly accelerated by the death of his close friend and Lavender Bay neighbour Brett Whiteley in 1992. He became a remarkable draughtsman with the ambition of a pure painter’s eye with energy more than a match for the extrovert talent of his late friend. About this time Kingston bought a tiny fishing boat so he could explore more intimately from the water’s surface the sense of space and dynamic gestures deployed so successfully in Whiteley’s imagery. 

Curator Barry Pearce, said with the death of Whiteley, Kingston felt released from an enormous shadow; free at last to convey with his own special poetic dynamic an abiding passion for a subject long familiar through childhood in Parsley Bay, where he was born in 1943. Suddenly, he now seemed fully prepared to inherit the mantle of chief chanteur of a wondrous working Harbour. And with it a growing command of charcoal drawing and the more difficult methodology of oil painting. That whole epiphany comprises the crux of this exhibition. 

By now Kingston had also moved away from the influence of another friend, Martin Sharp, contemporary from Cranbrook School where they had both studied under its art master Justin O’Brien. Kingston’s natural ability for drawing equipped him to pursue architecture at the University of New South Wales in 1965 having already studied Commerce and Arts. Meanwhile, inspired from an early age by films and comics, he contributed to university magazines and the infamous Oz, and was involved in Sharp’s legendary Yellow House at Potts Point. 

After two years in Japan during the mid-1970s Peter Kingston purchased the house next door  to the Whiteleys, where he became the serious artist we now see. Here he witnessed a spectacular synergy between nature and humanity, punctuated by iconic Luna Park, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. By the early 1990s Kingston mastered his language and over the next three decades has produced his most impressive work. 

Exhibition Details:

First Light: The Art of Peter Kingston

S.H. Ervin Gallery, Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks 

Tuesday – Sunday, 11am-5pm, Gallery information: (02) 9258 0173 

$12/ $10 Concession/ $4 National Trust Members, children under 12 free 

The exhibition closes on Sunday 14th February, 2021

Featured image: Study for ‘Big Saturday’ 1993. Oil on canvas.64X86cm



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