‘Painting...I think it’s like jazz’. Brian Eno

Jazz music, although difficult to define, is a mixture of European, African and Latin music traditions incorporating improvisation, polyrhythms and syncopation. Juxtaposed to form collective rhythms and countermelodies, the sounds become a cohesive whole when played together as a group. However as any enthusiast knows, when jazz is played live its most important element – improvisation – takes over. The original composition undergoes subtle or major intuitive changes depending on mood and the audience, creating exciting and essentially new arrangements.

JAZZ, my recent project, taps into these same core fundamentals – intuition, composition, appropriation, arrangement, spontaneity and, in particular, improvisation. The beginning reference point is the graphic vernacular of jazz album covers from the first half of the twentieth century, the era known as the ‘Jazz Age’. The original covers, sourced from Ebay and Secondspin, have been digitally manipulated by adding and subtracting, moving, enlarging, flipping and distorting various elements until what remains is a different arrangement, a newly composed album cover. The paintings in this project are based on these new translations. In some paintings the alterations are quite subtle, a changed logo or an added ‘sale’ sign, while in others the new cover bears little resemblance to the original and becomes something entirely new. For example, ‘Nina Simone – 9 Love Songs’ began life as a Beethoven album while ‘The Bix Beiderbecke Legend’ album cover is constructed almost entirely from elements found elsewhere.

These elements have been collated from a range of divergent sources which include other albums, cassettes, book covers and, in the case of ‘Miles Davis - Kind of Blue’, a car bumper sticker which shows a stylised Miles in blue silhouette playing his trumpet. The manipulation and re-interpretation of the original album covers produced exciting new visual mash-ups that borrow heavily from the ethos of jazz by re-interpreting or improvising on existing formats. This is a major progression from my earlier work. The reason behind this was a growing frustration with the limited scope afforded by working within the defined borders of existing readymade abstract elements presented by the real world.

These considerations are also reflected in the choice of support material, in this case used painter’s drop sheets and canvas tarpaulins. The canvas has literally been stitched together. Often, where repairs have been made, separate (but similar) material has been chosen, creating slight colour shifts across the picture plane and thus adding to its constructed history. The stains, paint splatters, incidental (improvised) markings and imperfections in the found canvas provide a readymade narrative that converges with the painted image, adding further layers to the work.

The result is a series of paintings that hopefully defy categorization, containing elements that 2 are factual and imagined, abstract and figurative. They exist as a series of moments composed
in space and time, just as great jazz moments are intended. As the legendary Dave Brubeck once
stated “There’s a way of playing safe, there’s a way of using tricks and there’s the way I like to play, which is dangerously, where you’re going to take a chance.... in order to create something you haven’t created before.”

Peter Atkins

GAGPROJECTS is excited to present PETER ATKINS’ sixth solo exhibition in our gallery with IN STEREO. Peter Atkins is a prominent Australian artist who has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and internationally over the last thirty years.

‘Atkins describes his practice as ’readymade abstraction’. Appropriating designs drawn from sources as diverse as product packaging, highway road signage and mid-twentieth century jazz album covers, he pares back extraneous details – typically removing text and any representational imagery – and reduces it to an abstract composition in which line, form and colour exist in a finely calibrated visual harmony.’

- Kirsty Grant, 2015, ‘Chaos and Order’ SCAPE8, catalogue essay

Peter Atkins is a graduate of the National Art School, Sydney (1985), he currently lives and works in Melbourne. Atkins has been included in several major exhibitions including: SCAPE8 Biennale, Christchurch (2015); Melbourne Now, NGV, Melbourne (2014); Contemporary Encounters, NGV (2010); and Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, NGV (2009)

His work is represented in the collections of every major Australian state gallery including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and various institutional, corporate and private collections both nationally and internationally.