Peter Nelson’s latest exhibition results from the interplay of two very different creative processes. Working with computer graphics by day as part of his PhD research at the School of Creative Media in Hong Kong, Nelson found the need to digitally ‘switch off’ at night and engage with the task of painting, which he originally trained in.
Things that look like rocks comprises of five works of ink on paper. The compressed landscape orientation of the works and vast areas of negative space reference traditional Chinese scroll painting. Drifting across these sparse surfaces are ambiguous sculptural shapes variously resembling rocks, mountains and clouds. The forms also recall Scholar’s stones – rock formations traditionally appreciated for their awkward symmetries and natural textures. Looking more closely, each painting is softly gridded on a perspectival plane, identical to the grids used in the production of 3D computer renderings. In some works, fragments of skyscrapers, synonymous with the contemporary landscape, are accurately inserted into the grid. These neat constructions contrast with the gnarled, rock-like forms that spill over the gridded lines.
In these paintings Nelson creates a delicate fusion of contemporary and traditional worlds. He points to the rationalised urbanism at odds with organic form. More specifically, he addresses the dominance of the virtual over the directly experienced, and the gap between these two modes of engagement. Nelson describes the looseness, tactility and unpredictability of painting as another way of thinking, and a vital means of extending his creativity in the digital realm:
‘The sensation of painting, and the ways the materials, ink, brush, pen and paper interact with one another, and how this works as a form of thinking, was then a different tactile memory I could remind myself of when I went back to the digital process.’
For Nelson, painting is an essential corrective to his methodical production on the computer. An investigation into classical Chinese art and philosophy is another complimentary countermeasure. As much an exploration of the relationship of the analogue to the digital, Nelson’s practice is a meditation on the rich contradictions of the country and culture in which he has chosen to reside.
Peter Nelson studied painting and drawing at UNSW Art & Design and graduated with Honours, the University Medal for Fine Arts and a Masters by Research. He has been an artist in residence at Red Gate Gallery (Beijing), Cite Internationale Des Arts (Paris), Taipei Artist Village (Taipei), Organhaus (Chongqing) and Serial Space (Sydney). He has held solo exhibitions in Sydney, Taipei, Hong Kong and Chongqing. He is currently undertaking a PhD at the School of Creative Media, Hong Kong, specialising in the interaction between landscape art history and computer games.