The English artist Peter Peri (1971, London) has produced new paintings, drawings and a film for his current solo exhibition *Country 10 at the Kunsthalle Basel. The title is derived from the scene of the “tenth country” in the Russian futurist avant-garde opera Victory over the Sun (1913), a place where total darkness reigns supreme as the sun has been imprisoned in a bunker, describing both the wish for a radical new beginning and a dystopia. This hovering between a modernist-positivist belief in progress and its attendant chasms, as expressed around 1900 by science-fiction authors H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft in ideas of temporal schism and horrifying future space, is one of the themes which interests Peri.
Peri presents paintings whose titles, such as Madeloc (2006), Hostage City (2006) or Greenville (2006), allude to real or fictional, inhabited or deserted places, in which something threatening always seems to have lurked. A similar experience of disorientation also emerges in the paintings themselves. In Head Hunter (2006) or Poor Thing (2006), the patterns seem to adhere to a secret system whose arrangement remains undecipherable. Composed of hatch-like structures, rudimentarily drawn architectonic spaces, circles and illusionist spheres hovering on pitch-black pictorial planes, they zoom back and forth between micro- or macro-levels, as if based on scientific models of atoms or depictions of outer space. However, without a sense of scale the structures absorb our gaze, and the intimated endless black space is inexorably linked back to the picture surface through the elaborate materiality of the paint.
By contrast, the fine and precise pencil lines in Peri’s drawings present more perceptible, figurative motifs, such as the apparently archaic and at the same time futuristic architectures in Country of the Blind (2006) and The Metropolis and the Mental Life (2006), or the cult objects of Catholicism in Sun Monstrance. The subversive quality in these works unfolds in quite another way, having something to do not only with the choice of motif – at times Peri refers to pictorial elements from Hieronymus Bosch and Albrecht Dürer – but also with the varied and labyrinthine lines and ornaments that fill the planes of the objects while shattering and dissolving their outward contours.
The exhibition Country 10 includes also a film work, 28B Camden Street (2006), shown on monitor. Here Peri has re-edited a sequence from a documentary film by David Gladwell, broadcast by the BBC in the mid-1960s. The film loop shows the large-scale demolition of houses in the 19th century London district of Camden, which were partly damaged during the Second World War and whose final demolition was intended to make room for newly-planned council housing blocks. After the war, these houses accommodated a number of artists and the black-and-white film images show the artists clearing out their studios, while the excavators and workmen pull down the houses around them. Fires are smouldering on heaps of rubble and the dust of the collapsing walls darkens the film frames. Finally, the chaotic demolition work leaves behind a desolate place that radiates a sinister atmosphere: Country 10 also seems to be present at 28B Camden Street.
Peter Peri lives and works in his home town of London; his works were on show, among others, in the 2005 and 2004 solo exhibitions at the Counter gallery, London, and in the group exhibitions How To Improve The World, 2006 at The Hayward Gallery, London, Motion on Paper, 2006 at Ben Brown Fine Arts London, in We Disagree, 2005 at Andrew Kreps Gallery & Wrong Gallery, New York and in East End Academy, 2004 at Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
An exhibition catalogue will be published by Schwabe Verlag, with texts by Martin Herbert, Simone Neuenschwander and Adam Szymczyk (72 pp.; 32 ill.).
The exhibition is generously supported by:
Stanley Thomas Johnson Stiftung
Additional support by: