23 November 2011 - 17 December 2011
Peter Westwood’s latest exhibition, Look Out, presents us with the dichotomy of today’s systems of power, viewed through confusion and disassociation. Look Out, as the name suggests offers the viewer a position where at every point we have a vantage through which to perceive situations within the world, but where there is no possibility to intercede. Look Out provides an insight into a world where we are in the same encasement or repetitive historical drama as the subjects in the painting, and we remain passively mute.
In two of the works included in Look Out Westwood positions large groups of figures seemingly picking through the turmoil of their times. Within these indeterminate sites Westwood presents locations undergoing perpetual alteration and transformation. These ongoing demolitions, or rather devolutions, pinpoint the constant state of change within which we live, and reflect the framework with which we experience reality.
Within this worldthereis a small portrait a woman from the past, Woman looking back (1969). In this picture the figure wistfully looks away over her shoulder as if caught in a moment of stasis, she resides in a temporary present, that space between the past and future. She has the authority of a historic figure (suggested through the stylistic references to socialist realism and early modernism) as she considers the experiences of her life and by extension the history of the world.
Equally power relations appear to confront and coalesce through the example of a youthful figure confronting a lion, an abrupt juxtaposition. The youth and the lion are each steadfastly located and contained within their own domain. The youth stands next to the outside world, turned away, immersed within a self-focused and self-reflective space. Unaware of the danger posed by the lion so perilously close but just beyond sight, it is we, the viewers, who have full knowledge of the situation.
Overlooking all this is Dog on a Hill, where a dog stands on a precipice between two worlds: the known and the unknown. A brightly coloured grid sits behind the dog, yet he looks back at the viewer in a manner that inversely echoes the work of the 19th Century German painter, Caspar David Friedrich. The dog expounds a stately and regal temperament, seemingly confident but visibly ill equipped for the task ahead of him.
Unlike the works by Friedrich, Westwood’s dog does not stand at the threshold of a new sublime, but conversely faces the limited options of a space filled by a dynamic, fast moving gridded matrix. Dog on a hill proposes a world where the central character seems unable to comprehend what it exists within.
Westwood utilizes a range of painting strategies, styles and associations within his work, to indicate a world that lacks completeness and cohesiveness. Westwood works with painting to make something out of nothing, to piece together remnants of thought and to create a type of inexplicable order.