Mike Petre’s exhibition New Works explores themes and concepts surrounding rural environments within New Zealand. His Field Study series which has attained an iconic status continues to focus on the objectification of animals through farming. The repetition and black and white rendering of the subject matter reflects themes of production and commodity.
To experience the works installed in the gallery space is to be immersed in a typical but somewhat unsettling landscape where the viewer is asked to confront what stands before them. “Taking a pragmatic rather than romantic approach, the animals have become objects of intense scrutiny as opposed to the traditional ‘prop’ for European landscape.” (1)
Petre displays command, confidence and skill in his painting techniques. This series exhibits a number of works that demonstrate a return to an impasto painting technique; where oil paint is applied and manipulated on the canvas surface with a palette knife. In these works the herd appear to merge into each other as well as their background, literally becoming part of the landscape.
Although his ink and oil images appear to be simple, his expressive painting marks are methodically built up through a systematic painting process. The animals appear to emerge from the stark white canvas. The dripping ink and blackness of the oil paint “give a sense of wetness of living skin, a challenging immediacy.” (2)
1. Mike Petre, Artist Statement, July 2004.
2. Helen Watson White, “Field Work,” Study Star Times, 16 June, 2002.