Nature provides inspiration for works of art

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 13:46 20/02/2013
Peter Belton
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
STRONG FORCES: Invercargill artist Peter Belton with his exhibition On Being There at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

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Invercargill artist and Southern Institute of Technology tutor Peter Belton likes to be in the eye of the storm to capture the forces of nature in a painting.

His first solo exhibition at Southland Museum and Art Gallery, On Being There, is filled with images and themes Belton has sketched on tramping trips - drawings of mountain peaks, stormy skies and lakes - and brought back to his studio and mixed together with figures.

While most of these figures are anonymous, one powerful image is of his son, Daniel - who is a professional dancer - leaping, legs folded beneath him, his body contorted back against a turbulent landscape.

Belton used a photo from one of Daniel's performances in London for the painting, which he says demonstrated an emotion that was also echoing in the Southland backdrop.

"I like to think of the figures as states of mind," he says. "I'm interested in structure and composition but also playing with the space around and through an image . . . because form is nothing without movement.

"I love hiking and sailing and this is me also wanting to record that experience - the wind in my face, the smell - those are the things that inform the image."

A favourite image in the exhibition, is Wind at Mihiwaka - translated literally as "greet the canoes; a high and windy place" - came after an epiphany that he should be "drawing the wind".

"I drew the landscape first and then created the sensation of movement around it," he says, describing the use of oil sticks and why he works on a board, rather than a canvas, because it is more "responsive".

Belton says that just like music, art needs tension - a rising and falling of an emotion - to make it work for the viewer. The figures in these environments reflect the human journey through life.

Another painting he stops to describe is an image from the Roman myth of Aeneas, who carries his father, Anchises, from the ruins of Troy through a mountain landscape.

"At one stage or another, we all will carry our parents."

On Being There will be at Southland Museum and Art Gallery until April 7.

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- The Southland Times

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