“Getting out,” into the wilderness in western Washington is rarely a clean, easy experience; the nearly endless rainy season can act as a killjoy until the oversized ferns, mushroom patches and lush understories of its forests override the fact that you are standing in these pristine landscapes completely soaked. Bellingham artist Peter Scherrer’s dense, complicated paintings of the Pacific Northwest incorporate similar dynamics through their surfaces muddied with content, almost to point of deterrence (particularly when seen as reproductions). Yet, when experienced in the flesh, the works use the depths of their layers to reveal a tangible, unconventional sense of the sublime. – Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor
Peter Scherrer | Pocket Knife, 2013, oil on canvas, 60 x 75 in. Image courtesy of SEASON.
In his latest show, EVERYTHING RIGHT AND ANYWHERE NOW, presented by SEASON at Seattle’s Platform gallery, Scherrer’s works in oils and watercolors portray disjointed lands of unlike features, mashed up into the artist’s distinctive environments. Familiar elements associated with the Pacific Northwest make appearances but never without unexpected counterparts. Solemn, gothic hues shroud the expanse of trees that coat all but one, tiny detail of Chipmunk, whose title can’t help but dispel the seriousness that would usually accompany large scale paintings of nature; if Chipmunk had a soundtrack, in the midst of forlorn lyrics sung by Kurt Cobain, Bob Ross would interject, requesting the addition of a happy, little creature within the mist. In a similar vein, Dense Mountain’s title is a drastic understatement, the page layered in heaps of flora, fauna and unidentifiable forms that make the title laughably obvious. Prismatic outlines weave with a level of frenetic energy that nods towards Mark Tobey’s “white writing” paintings, many of which referenced geographic locations regionally proximate to Scherrer’s subjects.
Peter Scherrer | Dense Mountain, 2012, watercolor and ink on paper, 41 x 63 in. Image courtesy of SEASON.
In comparison to the layered forests and abundant mountains, the animal characters infused into Scherrer’s imagery can feel sentimental, particularly when they do not play an overtly humorous role. The persisting frogs almost seem to belong in a store alongside Jerry bears and incense. But, the frogs also project an earnest quality, through their expressions and abundance, that embodies the wonder of the untainted, paralleling the rich surroundings Scherrer builds for his creatures. While this artist’s sublime stays away from the wrath of storm clouds or the awe of hyperrealism, these fantastical paintings come from a very real source, which in this moment may be one of the best sublimes at our disposal.
Peter Scherrer | Frog Eyes, 2013, watercolor and ink on paper, 41.5 x 63.5 in. Image courtesy of SEASON.
EVERYTHING RIGHT AND ANYWHERE NOW is on view at Platform gallery in Seattle, WA through June 15. Peter Scherrer lives and works in Bellingham, WA. He received his BFA in Painting and Drawing from California College of the Arts, San Francisco. His work has recently been shown in Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Vancouver and the Bay Area.
Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Manager of Adult Public Programs at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).
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