“Acta Est Fabula” Flowers Gallery: London:- Private View November 6th

2018

Siste Viator 2018 – Oil on canvas, 183.5 x 245 cm, 72 1/4 x 96 1/2 in

 

‘Life-destroyer’, ‘get lost’, ‘monkeys’, ‘in bad faith’, ‘malediction’, ‘concealed dungeon’, ‘poison head’, ‘parasite’, ‘disenchantment’, ‘lechery’. The titles of Peter Howson’s latest work, in translation from often Latin or Anglo-Saxon words or phrases, give a graphic sense of the content. The title of the exhibition Acta Est Fabula translates as ‘The play is over’ reported to be the Emperor Augustus’ last words, and commonly used to announce the ending of a dramatic performance in Ancient Roman theatre.

Throughout his career, Howson has interwoven themes of conflict and destruction, human suffering and redemption – JE

Throughout his career, Howson has interwoven themes of conflict and destruction, human suffering and redemption in his imaginative portrayals of contemporary society. This new exhibition takes place 25 years following his first visit to Bosnia (in 1993) as Britain’s official war artist documenting the Bosnian War. The paintings he made then documented the highly disturbing human atrocities that he witnessed. His paintings on contemporary social and political themes have since been founded on increasingly nightmarish visions of chaos and atrocity, portraying the universal suffering of humanity. In this, his most recent work, he addresses his fears of the rise of right-wing politics around the world.

With this exhibition, we are immersed in scenes of degradation, imposed and sought out, within which occasional moments of self-realisation and awareness occur. This is common ground for Howson, whether in Glasgow, Bosnia or elsewhere; homo homini lupus (man is wolf to man) is consistently demonstrated throughout the world and throughout history. Howson stands with all those artists, such as Bosch, Goya, Dix and Rouault, who have sought to raise our gaze from the mire by painting the extent to which we are sinking in the mire. There is a strong apocalyptic strand to the images he is currently creating; apocalyptic imagery fuelled by the experience of Brexit and the wave of populism of which Brexit is a symptom and for which it was a catalyst. In these images, he signals his Brexit preoccupations with his use of our flag, the Union Jack.

Tattered and torn flags flap listlessly from crude crosses at the centre of scenes of carnage and crudeness inflicted by post-apocalyptic crowds. The painting Siste Viator (translated as ‘Stop, Traveller’, a phrase often found inscribed on Roman tombs), is a monumental canvas depicting an apocalyptic mob-scene strewn with wounded bodies and debris, including a burnt-out motor vehicle. Central to the work is a vividly painted, tattered Union Jack flag, while a similarly brightly painted sign depicting a comet hanging from the wall of a tavern, appears to warn of further impending disaster. Britain has been crucified by the Brexiteers, and the result is the apocalyptic aftermath, an infinite extension of the increase in hate crimes that followed the Brexit vote itself.

Howson’s art has regularly excoriated those who view themselves as patriots by means of their violent scapegoating of those who are other. These images are the apotheosis of such excoriation. This is perhaps most apparent in two images (Ealdor-Bana and Oxymoros) that depict men using the Union Jack to mask their faces in the manner of criminals, terrorists, hooligans and rioters.

Howson is inspired by the Neue Sachlichkeit and Magic Realist artists, such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, whose work has been powerfully highlighted recently in exhibitions at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Such work has enormous resonance currently because there are significant political and social parallels with the period of the Weimar Republic and therefore Howson’s anguished expressionist imaging of far-right posturing and threat is a potent prophetic warning for our time and a reminder of the power of expressionism in responding to such apocalyptic times.

Among the anguish and violence inherent in these works, moments of self-realisation and awareness are also to be found. Figures similar to that in The Third Step which equate to Howson himself, who views the chaos and conflict he depicts as his internal state as well as representing the state of the nation, are pictured, generally alone but, in one instance, at the centre of the conflicted crowd. This is Howson’s testimony that, despite the violence filling his canvasses and our lives, we don’t have to be driven by our mimetic desires and can consciously reject and control the conflicts which otherwise tear us apart and destroy us.

Words: Revd Jonathan Evens  – Review © Artlyst 2018

 

Oubliette – 2018 – Ink & Chalk pastel on paper, 30.5 x 37.5cm, 12 1/8 x 14 3/4 in.

 

Flowers Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition of new work by Scottish artist Peter Howson, a focal member of the group of young artists to emerge from the Glasgow School of Art during the 1980s dubbed the New Glasgow Boys, and one of his generation’s leading figurative painters.

Throughout his career, Howson has interwoven themes of conflict and destruction, human suffering and redemption in his imaginative portrayals of contemporary society. Strongly influenced by witnessing the brutal and personally harrowing realities of combat as an official war artist commissioned by the Imperial War Museum during the Bosnian War in 1993, Howson’s paintings on contemporary social and political themes have since been founded on increasingly nightmarish visions of chaos and atrocity.

The title of the current exhibition Acta Est Fabula translates as ‘The play is over’ reported to be the Emperor Augustus’ last words, and commonly used to announce the ending of a dramatic performance in Ancient Roman theatre. The painting Siste Viator (translated as ‘Stop, Traveller’, a phrase often found inscribed on Roman tombs), is a monumental canvas depicting an apocalyptic mob-scene strewn with wounded bodies and debris, including a burnt-out motor vehicle. Central to the work is a vividly painted, tattered Union Jack flag, while a similarly brightly painted sign depicting a comet hanging from the wall of a tavern, appears to warn of further impending disaster.

Throughout his recent work, Howson creates disturbing scenes of degradation and violence to address the universal experience of human suffering. His emphatic distortions of form can be traced to the influence of the unsettling works of painters Otto Dix and Max Beckmann produced in the Weimar Republic between the wars. The brutish characters seen in this series, (based on Howson’s familiar motif of a giant or ‘colossus’), are drawn from his discomfort with machismo, relating in particular to his wartime experience.

 

 

 

Flowers Gallery London: Private View 6th November [Invitation only] Public View 7 November – 22 December 2018

Opening Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm

Image Credits: All images © Peter Howson www.peterhowson.co.uk

Luxuria - 2018
Luxuria - 2018
Anak - 2018
Anak - 2018
 
Pergamum - 2018
Pergamum - 2018
Austeros 2018
Austeros 2018
Earsling 2018
Earsling 2018
Ealdor-Bana 2018
Ealdor-Bana 2018
Oxymoros 2018
Oxymoros 2018
Monos  2018
Monos 2018
Otaku 2018
Otaku 2018