Peter Sherman is an artist represented by Agora Gallery who sees a close connection between visual art and another form of art – contemporary dance. He expresses this through his paintings, which focus on the bodies of dancers in movement. We’re always interested at Agora in the way that visual art connects to, informs and is inspired by other kinds of art, so we’re delighted to share Peter’s thoughts with you here.
Peter is currently working closely with the dancers of Misnomer, and the proceeds from his sales will be going to support their work, in a wonderful example of art supporting art. You can view his paintings in the exhibition The Manifestation of Milieu, at Agora Gallery February 4, 2011 – February 25, 2011 and on ARTmine.
What first gave you the idea to concentrate on creating paintings based on dancers in performance?
Peter: Contemporary dance has a vocabulary that uniquely captures today’s world. I found that I was fascinated by the way the dancers showed much more of the power of the body to convey feeling than an artist’s model can show in a classical pose. Also, contemporary dance, as opposed to classical ballet and say folk dance, broke away from a formal format of movement to give the body of the performer complete freedom of expression. Since I realized the power of these new movements I have been completely locked into painting this, for me, new world of human expression.
Movement is obviously an important part of your work. How do you capture it on a canvas that is by nature unmoving?
Peter: Most choreographers work at extremely detailed level. Each movement is carefully designed and coordinated with that that comes before a movement and the movement that follows after. What I try to capture in my paintings is the before and the after of a movement. I use video technology to capture and process what the eye cannot see, I then sketch frames and finally synthesize several sketches in the final painting.
Your work shows a deep connection that exists between different forms of art. Is this idea important to you?
Peter: Yes. Art nurtures and inspires art within and between different art forms. I think the level of innovation is greatest when a painter becomes inspired by say music, theater, dance than by other paintings.
Which painting materials and techniques do you favor, and why?
Peter: I am soon in my mid-sixties and have only been able to paint full-time these past two years. So, as I am in a hurry to catch-up on years of painting, the natural choice for me was acrylic – it was fast, meant I could apply many layers of paint a day because of the short drying times, and gave me watercolor and oil combined in one medium. However, I still can’t keep away completely from oil and from time to time combine the two in a painting.
You’ve spoken about light and shadow in your work. What role do these elements play?
Peter: If you think about scene lighting at the theater a lot of work has gone into accentuating the play of light on the performers, to give an additional dimension of drama to what is in essence a small room that takes on a larger than life vision. Capturing light and shadow is a way for me to work with movement before and after, and to highlight the keynote drama in the picture.
Do you usually represent a particular troupe of dancers, or is it anyone you happen to have seen in the past? Or are the images in your paintings born in your imagination?
Peter: I find that I become “connected” to a choreographer during a period of time. Some give me a couple of paintings, whereas others give me dozens. The last eight months I have produced several series of paintings (40+) inspired by the work of New York choreographer Chris Elam. The images in my paintings are truly based on art produced by other artists, and it is my hope that I give their art a new perspective.
Do you think dance has a more intimate connection with visual art than many other art forms, or is it simply one that speaks to you?
Peter: For me dance does connect in a very direct way with my painting. Whether it’s a personal thing or a general connection I am not sure, but I have found that few artists are captured by contemporary dance as absorbingly as I am, so it’s probably personal.
Have you ever worked in a way that connected two forms of art? Would you like to? Let us know in the comments!