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'This new series of work titled ‘readymade abstraction’ sees a return, after a decade, to the use of tarpaulins as the support for my paintings. The shift that has occurred also sees a less painterly approach to the work leaving instead the untouched tarpaulin to act as the ‘ground’ for my painted floating forms. What attracts me most about these used tarpaulins is the encoded history, built up over time, sometimes years, of a narrative that is literally embedded in the surface of the material. The stains, creases, faded canvas and repaired seams and tears, impossible to fabricate, become remnant reminders of lives lived and journeys undertaken.

Existing narratives in found material are an important aspect of my practice and have always been paramount in my smaller journal works which are predominantly constructed using collected material, often picked up straight from the street .The local Brotherhood of Saint Laurence store and Council throw out days also provide some rewarding finds. Children’s drawings, letters, old chairs, stained mattresses, photo’s, and books are some of the unwanted, discarded material chosen because they are laden with multi-layered and complex human histories. Found, saved and revealed. The works become records of personal and shared experiences as I navigate through my environment. My interest lies in the human connectedness of the material and the commonality of shared histories.

This mapping of collected material through a personal interaction within the landscape is also prominent in my painting practice. The collected forms are the inspiration and the reference point to the completed paintings. I am fascinated by the idea of abstract elements and patterns that exist, often in prosaic form, within the landscape, particularly my local landscape, around Brunswick in Melbourne. Street and shop signs, sale signs, window forms, patterns on trucks, buses and caravans, book jackets and record covers, architectural elements, and shadow forms are some of the incidental abstract moments that surround me every time I step out of the door.

Some years ago I took my young son on a visit to Disneyland in Los Angeles. We caught the local bus from downtown out to Anaheim, a journey of over 3 hours. During the bus-trip I became aware of the stunning signage and various roadside forms that marked our journey as we made our way through the L.A. landscape to meet Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck. I began sketching a series of abstract elements on the back of my Disneyland tourist map. A concept began to develop relating to the forms that marked this journey, as seen from the bus window. Looking back this became a pivotal moment in my painting practice. The memory of my experience of seeing these forms has since developed into this new body of work. It is a flexible system of abstract painting that allows me the possibility to relate to what I am seeing and experiencing in the landscape.

In essence each work is unique, referencing directly to the chosen form. It’s a transportable system which allows me the ability to relate my experiences of things seen within specific locales. A language of form as unique to Brunswick as it would be to L.A. or anywhere else. I remember hearing the American artist Richard Tuttle say of his work that it was “as close to being invisible as possible”. This has always resonated with me because much of what I paint makes up the overlooked, barely noticed moments in our day. The unseen. Those elements which operate on a lower frequency, a band of colour that circles the edge of a shop-front window, the strange (but beautiful) form sliding in through the top of a Barry Crocker cassette cover or the fleeting vision of a stripy pattern on the side of a truck passing down Sydney Road. These are the incidental, quiet moments of readymade abstraction that invigorate and inform my practice.

Peter Atkins
March 2007