Born in 1954, Peter Messer studied Fine Art at the University of Brighton. He works mainly in egg tempera on a traditional gesso ground and has exhibited in solo and group shows in the UK,US, Germany and France.
His work is frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the New English Art Club and he has been a finalist in the Hunting, Garrick Milne, Lyn Painter-Stainers and Singer and Friedlander Prize exhibitions. In 1998 he won the Sotheby's -sponsored Chichester Art Prize and in 2000 was commissioned to provide twelve paintings for the Sussex Book of Revelations, an Arts Council Millennium Project which toured Sussex libraries. In 2004 he completed a commission for the House of Lords.
'On The Way To Work. The Lewes Paintings Of Peter Messer' was published in 2007.
He lives and works in Lewes, Sussex and has paintings in collections in Belgium, France,Germany, Holland, Sweden and the US, as well as the UK.
"I have always been fairly sensitive to layers of narrative and experience, and because I have been in or around Lewes, on and off, since my schooldays, many of my personal layers have accumulated here. The town is full of windows, rooms from which I habitually looked out and where I now have no business to be. I inhabit new places and peer from windows I once simply walked past. There are buildings and corners that I have looked on as a schoolboy, a young man and a middle-aged one, in a range of physical, mental and material states. People important to me have left, died or been redistributed around the town. New faces arrive and new things happen. Meanwhile, I am aware that I often move around the place in a state of almost hallucinatory immersion. It is possible, like William Blake, to stare at a knot of wood until one becomes frightened of it. There are shadows, strange patches of luminosity, weird flints in the walls and gesticulating trees which, equally, can revert to familiarity when the light or the wind changes. The things one thinks one sees can outnumber those which may really be there.
I have never wanted my paintings to be seen solely through complicated notions of art. It is possible for representational paintings to be resonant, intense and poetically ambiguous without sacrificing a certain straightforwardness. The truth is that I like the craft of painting, the materials, the processes and the problems, as much as I like to daydream. I enjoy being surprised by everyday splendour, layers of light, emotion and memory. The luck to be astonished in the right place."
These are quiet paintings; the outcome of long observation and unhurried craftmanship. Whether by their close colouring or their delayed charges of detail, Peter Messer's paintings hold attention by means of their subtlety. Each picture sustains and renews interest precisely because, like the world everyone knows or recognizes, it may be enjoyed, understood or engaged with in a dozen ways yet still retain its enigma
Messer is not seeking paradise. There is no need to voyage to the South Seas. His "motif", very wisely, is for the present time a distillation in paint of his inner turmoil and his small victories over it, within the purlieus of a small Southdown town.Beware though, the shark still has pretty teeth, dear!
Mick Rooney RA
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