Painting For Landscape, February 2008

For Peter Beckett, it’s about the earth and art, and boats.

The Oakville born artist has studied geomorphology, in addition to art and yacht design. He has traveled, painted, and has shown his art in Europe and North America. During last winter's adventure, living aboard a boat on Martha’s Vineyard, while Beckett worked on wooden boats, made paintings, and exhibited his art, he came to appreciate how much the two traditions have in common.

Beckett’s large canvasses are filled with the movement, shape and color reminiscent of everything from moss on rock to being soaked by a breaking wave. Here there is a record of travel and learning — a travel-journal and field notes in colour and form. As in nature, there are broad brush strokes and intricate textures.

While Beckett spent the days “fairing,” which is the final shaping of a new plank-on-frame vessel, he began to write a description of the process. He spent his winter nights aboard a little wooden ketch in a tidal marsh behind Vineyard Haven.

Immediately after painting the hull, he set up a studio and set to work outside, trying to make art from the experience.
He opened a studio exhibit of his abstract impressionist work, while the paintings were drying.

Fairing the 50' Nat Benjamin schooner "Charlotte"
Detail from 'Painting For Landscape"

In May, Beckett packed up the paintings and brushes and returned home to the studio that he built near Walters Falls twenty-five years ago. Nestled among towering maples, he continued to paint en plein aire, capturing the immediate surroundings, as well as the winter’s recollections.

“It was while I was painting outside that I wondered to myself: if a painter acted as a conduit, taking on the voice of the environment, what would the painting reveal? The next painting was called Painting For Landscape to remind me where I was when that idea first came to light."

Andrew Kear, Assistant Curator, Winnipeg Art Gallery, writing to Beckett in the winter of 2007:

"Peter, I think I've said before how much I appreciate the origin of your work in landscape, natural surround, and your phenomenological approach to these origins. I see your practice as a reinvigoration of the plein air tradition . I see your work as more in line with the tradition of Tom Thomson than Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism. Anyway, the thrust of my article/review looks into why what you're doing is unique and timely."

from Kear's blog ...

"The best way to experience Beckett’s paintings then are as installations, as part of the environments in which they were made. Integrated as such, his work helps to revitalize both the plein air landscape and abstract painting traditions. His is an art practice that is in constant call-and-response dialogue with the planet itself, and in a very unsentimental way makes us remember that we as individuals are, and remain, connected and overwhelmingly subject to environmental conditions. This is not a mere hippie truism. It is this fundamental link that will catch us off guard, should we choose to forget it. ... Beckett’s painting-installations are, at their height, sublime and frighteningly raw. They remind us that in the end, whether or not we heed it, nature will always out, will always have the last word. One precondition to realizing our place in the world is to, like Beckett, bask in its flow."