Peter Howson – Prophecy – 2016
PHIL MILLER: Glasgow Herald 17th October 2016
The Scottish painter Peter Howson has revealed his apocalyptic new vision for a major forthcoming show in New York.
The painter, whose muscular works and frequently religious works are keenly collected, is working on a series of large and turbulent canvasses for the show at the Flowers Gallery in the Big Apple next year.
He has chosen the title Prophecy for the title of the show, as well as one of its major canvasses, which he is currently working on in his Scottish studio.
The paintings are inspired by his feelings of great concern about the state of the world, he said.
Howson, who said he is well physically after recent bouts of bad health, said he thinks the state of the world will deteriorate before it improves.
“I started it a few months ago, and I am working on the first major oil, but I am also working on twelve panels at home, which doesn’t seem like a lot and they are very small but they are taking me a long time, and there will be drawings and a few pastels as well,” he said.
“It is a theme, an apocalyptic theme, I am just going for it. The whole idea is the world as it is now, and as it could be.
“It’s a prophetic type show, I am into prophecy at the moment.”
Mr Howson said he said he considered the future would hold “mainly bad things, but good as well, at the end of the day, I think it has got to be bad before it is good, a complete turnaround in the world order,
“I think we are living through the most dangerous times that we have lived for a long time.
“I don’t know whether people realise that – I think they do, but they are confused as to what is causing it.”Howson is preparing fifty pieces for the show, his first in eight years in New York, including four large paintings measuring eight foot by six foot, and several works on panel.
Howson, 58, was the official British war artist in the 1993 Bosnian civil war.
The painter grew up in Prestwick, Ayrshire, and attended the Glasgow School of Art, and his works have, over the years, focused on muscular or looming male figures, war and Christian themes.
Howson was awarded the OBE in the 2009 Birthday Honours List but in 2014 said he was giving up the title as he did not want to be part of the “British Empire” and the UK involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the new works on panel, unusual for Howson, he said: “They are difficult to work on. They are taking ages. They are quite dark.
“This will be the biggest show in New York, since eight years ago.”
Howson said he had removed himself from modern technology, with no computer, email or mobile phone.The artist said that the rise of Islamic State (IS), the war in Syria, Donald Trump and other contemporary issues had fuelled his recent work.
His current large canvass shows a crucified Jesus figure amid a roiling mob of people in a stormy landscape.
Howson’s smaller new works on panel display equally complex crowds of people, sometimes violent, sometimes tortured.
“The world is very strange at the moment – because of mobile phones and the internet, everyone can see the wars,” he said.
The painter said he is particularly concerned by the effects of mass communication and the internet on society.
“I think the biggest danger for me – and people may say ‘what is he talking about’, it may be my age but I am sure it isn’t – I think the internet and mass communication and cyber-stuff, social media, is bad,” he said.
“Even though it does create good stuff, but the bad stuff outweigh the good stuff and it has changed the way that people behave.
“People are no longer noticing things that are really important, and it seems like to me that globalisation would be a good thing, the whole world coming together, but it has actually divided the world, more.”