oil on canvas
45 x 60 cm
I cannot look at Peter Anderson’s work without succumbing to a shiver of both delight and of dread. The sub-Antarctic wind howls off his Southern Ocean canvases with so much force that it’s impossible not to feel the icy sting of salt spume and the gut churning heave and slough of the mountainous seas.
Look deeply into these paintings and you may catch a salutary glimpse of your own complete and utter insignificance.
Anderson encountered innumerable seas just like this during his two circumnavigations under sail, the first aboard the brigantine Eye of the Wind in the late 1970s and the other in the 1990s aboard his 36ft steel ketch Skerryvore. Peter regards the three years he spent crewing aboard the Eye of the Wind as one of his life’s lucky breaks. Having graduated from several art colleges in Australia he was accepted as a student at St Martin’s School of Art in London. He was just 21 when he joined the ship in the Mediterranean en route for London. “What I didn’t bargain for,” he says, “was falling in love with this gorgeous little brigantine. Here was an opportunity to have the kind of experience no art college could ever give me. I decided to forget about St. Martin’s and went to sea instead.”
Last year he and wife Kim sailed from the South Island and went out to the Snares, the Auckland Isles and Enderby Island. “I call them the Shipwreck Isles,” Peter said. “During the nineteenth century they were a bit of a waypoint for sailing ships leaving Australian ports toward Cape Horn. Unfortunately the islands were incorrectly charted. They were up to 30 nautical miles out of their proper latitude with horrendous consequences. Many of those vessels were wrecked in the dark with tremendous loss of life. We went ashore on the northern tip of Enderby Island and saw where the British barque Derry Castle came to grief on the reef in 1887. All the wreckage has vanished now but the massed grave that contains the remains of her captain and twelve of his crew are still there. The island has a desolate, melancholy quality and it’s not hard to imagine the state of mind of the survivors who struggled ashore all those years ago.”
“It’s a mixture of fascination, loathing and fear that I’m trying to distil. Painting is my way of accelerating those feelings, allowing them to come to the surface. My hope is that people will see the paintings and share those feelings.”
Bruce Stannard AM