June 5, 2017
This is a portion of a larger essay on the art of Sammy Peters that draws upon a 30 minute painting session Patrick McKelvey filmed in Peters’ studio in 2004. The time code begins when Peters moves to the painting and stops when he moves away from the painting.
Peters has a unique naming schema. His exacting titles are composed of three words which provide the viewer with neither a context nor a storyline. And yet Peters has used this schema for over a decade. How do the titles function in his aesthetic?
There is a relationship between Peters’ painting process and his naming device. It lies in the way each breaks conventional painterly and linguistic structures to open up new thematic possibilities for the viewer.
Peters' paint pushing is perfect. One only has to immerse oneself into his subtle surface displacements, his lush rich color palette, his painted strokes of ladders and swirls, and his placement of striped fabric collages, to know that it is perfect. It rewards the viewer time and time again by breaking the painterly structure into open-ended visual possibilities for the viewer. This open-ended possibility is apparent from watching Peters work the surface of his paintings, as he moves effortlessly from form to formlessness in seemingly endless permutations.
SP begins scraping over a yellow form by starting with the upper right red bean shape. This red paint mixes with the yellow. The texture previously created by the underpainting causes the spatula which is loaded with wax medium to dig into the fresh paint and create pockets of opaque color contrasting with a gooey transparency. This glaze-like quality gives what Peters’ calls ‘body’ to the form and ‘gives [the surface] a feeling like it’s been around for ages rather than minutes.’ This is the basic component of Peters’ evokation of sublime timelessness within a gesture.
Peters’ painting is about edges that create visual correspondences – a surface filled with tectonic plates and geological striations, archeological sites and Paleolithic digs, concrete abutments and wooden fences, plowed fields and irrigation trenches, meshes, scars and gashes. Structure is reduced to remnants, the surface transformed into frozen ice, translucent and radiant, to reveal strata of saturated hue beneath. The stroke is reduced to edges transformed by scraping and smearing. It is at the edges of his brush and spatula that Peter’ narrative structure takes hold and spreads out across the surface of his canvas.