Peter Livesey

A Portrait of Gestures:

Having devoted much time to Marine-scapes with views around the Kent coast, as well as landscapes, I was asked to design the 2010 Cathedral Calendar with twelve separate images of Canterbury Cathedral depicting the months of the year. I had avoided painting the Cathedral for many years because it has been painted so many times before and by some of the world’s greatest artists. I felt I had nothing new to say and feared I would end up painting visual clichés. I have since produced three Cathedral calendars, an Advent Calendar, numerous Christmas cards, Greeting Cards and Notecards.

After the calendar was so well received I started painting townscapes in Canterbury and by chance developed my fascination for “figurative realism”. The spur was populating the scenes with people in life-like poses. The aspect of this artistic development that I am particularly interested in is the way people express themselves through their body language and it was my particular interest within the doctor/patient consultation. From an artistic view I am interested by the way people stand about chatting or simply taking in the scene, or the way they stroll casually about or stride out with purpose.

The easy way that children bound about or the difficulty experienced by the elderly with stiff and arthritic joints can all be glimpsed in an instant. The closeness or distance that people stand from one another says so much about their relationship and the way they are feeling towards each other. The way they carry their shoulders, heads, arms or backs or the way they walk in cold weather contrasting with how they do so in the sunshine all add dimensions of interest, which hold the attention of the interested observer. Whilst some of the characters are real some are imaginary.

My aim is a little like that of Narrative Painting but is less prescriptive. My intention is to leave much of the visual interpretation to the observer and his or her imagination. The titles of the works, therefore, are much simpler and less directive.

I usually restrict my palette to just four colours – Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, French ultramarine, and Cadmium Red- although I do occasionally use other colours such as Cadmium Lemon and Alizarin Crimson. I feel the more familiar I am with these four colours the more variety I can get with them and I don’t need to worry about loss of harmony as they all marry well with each other. I also feel more confident as I get to know their potential. They can provide great exuberance and vitality and yet also quiet calm and serenity.

Royal Watercolour Society Bankside London
Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, Mall Galleries, London
RAA Islington
Chelsea Town Hall
MAHL with Angela Malone, John Hughes, Steve Asquith, Paul Gadenne
Solo exhibitions for Canterbury Cathedral Enterprises
EKAS Annual Exhibitions in Canterbury Museum, Horsebridge, Whitstable and Sandwich

Work in private collections in USA, Canada, UK, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Italy. Prints worldwide.