Peter Matthews
In Search of the Sublime

Preview: Thursday 2 June (6-9pm)
Exhibition: 3 June – 9 July 2016
Participating Artist: PETER MATTHEWS (solo)

Beers London is thrilled to present In Search of the Sublime, the second solo exhibition by British artist Peter Matthews. The artist will present a new series of drawings and video works that illustrate the artist’s unique and very physical process of art-making in which he abandons himself for prolonged periods of time in the wilderness.

Over an intense period of time lasting several months between 2015 and 2016, Matthews journeyed through a series of physical outings in which he literally abandons himself within the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Taiwan. Throughout repeatedly exposing himself to these gruelling, physically demanding and unpredictable periods, Matthews begins to create his work – risking health, and even his life, for the sake of his art. As a result, the work is as much about exploring the nature of painting, (how much duress can both the artist and his artwork withstand before losing itself into the abyss of the ocean) as it is about how an artwork can be created. In the most Romantic sense, the work is about exploring and questioning one’s own personal relationship with the wild and sublime natural environment. For Matthews, the sea presents itself as a manifestation of a challenge: a pursuit from which to learn from and adapt to; perhaps a maddening, life-threatening obsession that – at its most transcendent – offers the artist a glimpse of a beauty that lay beyond the horizon.

So perhaps it is through Matthews’ obsession with the wild that we may attempt to touch that same untouchable pinnacle of existence and nature: to ‘cross the rubicon’ so to speak. It is a crude reality that many of Matthews’ works are lost to the oceans that produce these monumental works. And they are monumental, both in dimension and in scope. But they reference the sublime in their presence and also their absence: suggesting a journey the artist has taken, drifting, heaving, swelling, and breathing somewhere out there in the beautiful fluid liminal spaces between ocean and land. For Matthews, each day is an adventure, “found and revealed within the dynamic experience of wandering with the sublime, the mysterious, the unknown,” where Matthews paints in, on, and underneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. But for Matthew’s the real object of art exists where the object loses itself in the subject, where the ocean and the painting are indivisible to one another and where the ocean and universe write their own image.


PETER MATTHEWS graduated with an MFA and BA Hons in Fine Art from the Nottingham Trent University. He has been included in numerous group exhibitions internationally and around the UK including: After Image: Contemporary Artists and Photography, Art House Productions Gallery, New Jersey, USA (2015), Power of the Sea, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (2014), Appendage, Konnektor, Forum für Künste, Hannover, Germany (2014), The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina and Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, USA (2013); Sea Journeys, Künstlerhaus Dortmund, Germany (2013) and Glasklar Milchig, Forum Factory, Berlin, Germany (2013) His solo exhibitions include Continuum, James Cohan Gallery, New York, USA (2011) and Sea Marks, Mendes Wood DM, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2011). Following his artist residency at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California in 2015, he had two solo shows at Scripps and the University California San Diego. Matthews was a finalist in the Francois Schneider Contemporary Talents competition in France in 2014, and last year was a short listed artist featuring on the Sky Arts programme Landscape Artist of the Year. In 2016 Matthews will show his work in the major touring and Arts Council funded exhibition Head Above Water which will travel from Plymouth and then around the UK. Matthews had his last solo exhibition with BEERS in June 2013, entitled, ‘Surroundings’ and his next solo exhibition with BEERS opens early June 2016.

Through the simplicity of the works, Matthews’ comments as much on performance and ‘the conceptual’ as he does the two-dimensional picture plane. For these are drawings that are not really about drawing at all, but rather about man’s inability to recapture the momentary sublime held in the vastness of nature, the bleak romanticism in the ocean as it consumes and intoxicates. Through extended hours (sometimes Matthews will abscond himself for up to 14 hours, adrift alone at sea,) Matthews is working in real time through a very direct approach and immediate relationship with the ocean, where it becomes evident that his process is so much less about draftsmanship or material and more about an idea connected to nature and personal spirituality: through the drawings, Matthews seeks to question and challenge the nature of the image as something that requires subject matter. He questions us, as to whether the drawing can capture an essence, a thought, a momentary fleeting feeling. For Matthews, there is an immediacy and connectivity in his practice that articulates something that even a painting cannot – for a painting is about production, and these drawings are not about the artist’s studio or statement: they are about a place and moment in time. Most recently, he has begun pairing his works with videos which offer perhaps the most straightforward documentation of a practice defined by its very indefiniteness, its incalculability, and the presence of video may be more apt to contextualize something that drawing, even after hours and hours drifting in the ocean, may not be able to fully explain for his viewer.