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The arts

that when I became middle-aged and wanted security and comfort, not having a degree or career within the art establishment would make it harder for me to compromise. I was an idiot – albeit, at that time, a very contented one.

Frome Life: What attracted you to the Devon landscape, and what keeps you working there? Peter: The pattern of getting fed up towards the end of winter, deciding to move and then, when the spring gets into gear, deciding that there was nowhere else I’d rather be, was established quite early. I still think the landscape around the coast is the most staggeringly beautiful on earth – in the spring – when its not being transformed into a quagmire by the endless drench, obscured by swirling sea mist or battered by hail storms.

Frome Life: Who or what are your main influences and inspiration? Peter: Painting a picture is a bit like weaving a carpet from thousands of different threads of feelings, memories and ideas. So Frans Hals for the cascading vectors of his brush strokes, Paulo Veronese for the grandeur of his composition, Catalan Romanesque for the serpentine rhythms, Fra Angelico for stillness and light, Picasso for the construction. And the way I think is informed by the kind of romanticism that has its roots in neo-platonic Christianity.

Frome Life: You seem to zero in on a small number of subjects, rocks, waterfalls, holy wells – can you tell us a bit about your fascination with these?

Clockwise from top left: Fisherman’s Rock; Sand Lane; St Nectan’s Well; Sand Lane; Waterfall

Peter: There’s a quote from Iris Murdoch about fake relics “If even a dog’s tooth is truly worshipped it glows with light. The venerated object is endowed with power.” The feeling of painting is a bit like

filling up a barrel until it overflows. I want the glow of the dog tooth, the overflow of emotion and the more I concentrate on one place, the more powerful it becomes. Particular places generate particular

pictorial structures. The way I make pictures can be compared to the way that a musician produces variations on a theme. The visual impact of the vertical white bar of a waterfall or the silhouette of a dark rock against the white surf can become the equivalent of a melody or phrase in a piece of music. That ‘phrase’ is echoed or developed through emotion and feeling.

Frome Life: How has your style evolved?

Peter: For 15 years I only painted from observation. But for me, the most important thing about a painting is the composition, the ‘music’ of form and colour. Over those 15 years I gained a knowledge of the forms and colours of the landscape that I painted and gradually these forms and colours became the building blocks that I could use in order to construct new compositions.

Frome Life: Tell us a little about the exhibition at Black Swan Peter: I’m showing paintings produced during the last two years, and there will be a text by Christopher Bucklow. I’ve been painting ovals, quatrefoils and arches recently alongside the usual rectangles so I’m looking forward to seeing what they look like hung together. FL

Peter Stiles exhibits at Black Swan Arts 26 April - 24 May Frome Life 19

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