Peter Godwin’s new work, on show at Defiance Gallery, continues his exploration of interiors and still life. Through the use of a wonderfully subdued colour palette and clever composition with empty voids, Godwin is able to produce entrancing images that are not overloaded with weighty meaning but highlight the evocative pleasures and joy of a wistful paint-loaded brush. Languid, flowing lines sweep through his pictures, delineating the forms of a chair, couch or interior screen. What may seem mundane at first thought is transformed into a vital living space. The way Godwin works his spatial relationships in the compositions allows for a transformative effect on these somewhat representational rooms and still lifes which almost straddle abstraction.
In a period where consideration and beauty in painting can be undermined by curatorial weight, Godwin seems to be a painter who is enjoying the process of paint application and is keen for us to be swept up along with it. Though not known outside art circles on a grand scale, this quiet achiever has garnered a dedicated following of admirers, collectors and connoisseurs that would fill some of the more popular artists of today with envy.
Godwin has an awareness of the traditions of painting and even uses the old technique of an egg tempera medium in his work – often scratching back into the fast-drying layers of paint. Some of his work has a hint of the great European modern masters such as Matisse or Braque, but also that of Australia’s Brett Whiteley, particularly the cacky-handed but harmonious colour combinations reminiscent of Whiteley’s earlier years when the masterpieces seemed to flow a lot easier. Compare Godwin’s recent painting of the view from a Paris apartment with one of Whiteley’s warmer Lavender Bay pictures and you can see the similarities. What’s noticeable is the unconscious flow of movement – and a more spirited, vigorous endeavour is encountered in paint.
In these works there is a slow, systematic approach of the painter’s craft, which utilises the element of pattern, creating fascinating still lifes that look alive. Familiar motifs become objects of discovery and reinvention, and are well used by the artist. Oceanic artefacts, shells, fabric and sculpture, from his own collection, are paired with birds, squid or fish strewn across tabletops. These works have a particular ‘feel’ – they show a curiosity, an interest in the painter’s world and enjoyment of the craft.
It has taken a long time for Godwin to make his presence felt, having spent time as a teacher and content to battle through his work and establish a practice that challenged and satisfied his own needs first. His works are now in high demand and most Godwin shows have sold out since the start of the millennium, which is a deserved reward for a dedicated painter who is at the top of his game.
October 10 to November 3, 2012
Paris Apartment, Night Window, 2011, egg tempera on hemp on marine ply, 203 x 244cm
Highland Shield with Kwoma Cult Figure I, 2011, tempera on hemp on marine ply, 122 x 153cm
Courtesy the artist and Defiance Gallery, Sydney