41 Dover Street
2nd – 22nd November 2017
Megan Piper is pleased to present Peter Darach’s first solo exhibition in nearly 35 years and his first exhibition at a commercial gallery.
Born in Derbyshire in 1940, Darach studied at the Royal College of Art (1962-65) and, during this time, was included in the John Moores Painting Prize of 1963. He participated in 2 group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, in 1965 and 1979. The latter, Narrative Paintings: Figurative Art of Two Generations, included Peter Darach, Ken Kiff and Timothy Hyman as part of the generation of emerging artists and Ron Kitaj, Howard Hodgkin and Michael Andrews as established artists.
This exhibition, Darach’s first solo show since his 1983 touring exhibition, Peter Darach: Me and My Family, includes recent work and celebrates his independent approach to painting. His works display a sense of all-encompassing urgency as faces constantly emerge from the charcoal washes, scrawled lines and tempestuous surges of colour. An array of cascading figures seem to flounder in the midst of chaos as the scenes refuse to settle. Darach is familiar with most of the figures in his paintings, many of them are friends, family members and mythical beings. These characters return, insistently and repeatedly to his work, always in new guises and predicaments. Darach, who also modestly appears in the work, can’t explain how they get there, just that they ‘force their way in’.
For decades Darach has admired and collected Japanese shunga prints and identifies the influence they have had on his practice. In contrast to the small, precise nature of these woodcuts, Darach paints on a large scale. The triptych Snowball and Black Wall (2015), for example, stands at 8 x 15 feet (243 x 457 cm).
The architectural framework in My Life: The Flood (2017), the most recent painting in the exhibition, references the woodblocks of Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769–1825) and the interior space of brothels. Darach invites the viewer to contemplate the contemporary state of the world. Beautiful and bizarre, the painting is disorientating as its multifaceted narrative unfolds. Considering the paintings in the show, Darach highlights that ‘it’s not just that there’s something esoteric about these paintings, there’s also something mundane – they reflect everyday life’. The backdrop to Snowball and Black Wall (2015) is taken from Darach’s walk from London Bridge to the National Theatre. The Thames flows through the top of the painting and figures swirl around the artist who is present, with blue eyes, on the right-hand side of the left panel. Just above him is the wren that came through a skylight and perched on his knee when he lived on the Isle of Skye in the 1980s. Darach layers his paintings with memories that span a number of decades, making it hard to distinguish between recollection, fantasy and the unconscious. As Darach aptly states, the paintings ‘are not from the articulate side of my life, at all.’