Interview with London based painter Charley Peters

Tell us about yourself

I am an artist – I would describe myself predominantly as a painter, although I do also make drawings and some objects. I also write about painting and curate exhibitions, and these activities help me to develop a wider critical context for my own work – but painting, and especially the legacy of hard-edged abstract painting is at the center of everything I do.

Where are you located?

I live and work in south London


Tell us about your artwork

My work is concerned with the spatial potential of the painted surface and the ways in which variations in colour, tone and scale can construct illusionary light and structural depth. I use techniques of layering and juxtaposition that explore the materiality of paint, and the physical space that painting occupies. I’m interested in the ways in which pictorial composition is synonymous with our experiences of reading space, material and subject in the post-digital image world.


What’s your process for making your artwork?

It’s a mixture of intuitive elements and more structured, considered processes. My work is quite precise but not pre-determined, before I start work on it I don’t know what the painting will look like once it’s finished. I usually start with a color – either a flat color, something more gestural or a gradient/color blend. This part of the painting is usually done using spray paint. I’ll then mask off areas of composition with tape and make a response to the first layer of paint. As I work on successive layers the painting becomes more refined and focused and the last layers are often made with acrylic paint, masking tape and a brush.

Why do you make art? What’s your motivation or inspiration?

I can’t not make art, I make something every day even if it’s just quick sketches to record ideas. I think that artists have a particular way of seeing and responding to the world and that’s an innate as well as a habitual process. Being an artist is all I’ve ever wanted to do from being a small child – I have always loved drawing and painting. At art school I also became interested in writing about art, especially writing by other artists (rather than ‘art historians’ or ‘critics’) such as Agnes Martin and Donald Judd. I’m interested in thinking about the work I make in the context of what has come before it and what painting should look like now.

I don’t feel consciously ‘inspired’ by external factors, I see my work as predominantly having abstract or formal concerns relating to color, form and composition. However, I am interested in the affect of the digital age on visual sensibilities and it’s fair to acknowledge that when discussing my practice. I hope that my work sits within a contemporary visual language of painting and for me that means recognizing the influence of the screen, the pixel and computing on our understanding of visual space.


What challenges do you face in pursuing your art?

Not having enough time to make everything I’d like to.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve recently moved to a larger studio and have increased wall and floor space to work. This is allowing me to make larger paintings and things that exist more in physical space. I’m currently occupied with exploring what contemporary painting in two and three dimensions could look like, and also paintings that move – so I’m started to look at some ways of animating my work. I also have a couple of curatorial projects underway for exhibitions later in 2017, and a forthcoming article for Turps Banana painting magazine that will be published in the autumn.



How do you describe your studio/working environment?

I’m lucky to have a lot of natural light in my studio. This has important as I think of my paintings as having a lot of light within them in terms of how I apply color, and I need to see color in natural daylight to understand it. I spend a lot of time in my studio so my working environment is very important to me; if it feels wrong I won’t be productive. Having daylight also affects my mood, windowless studios feel quite claustrophobic to me and make it more difficult for me to ‘see’ and ‘think’ clearly. My studio is arranged into different ‘zones’.

I have a space for messy painting by the window, I like to paint on the floor or walls where I can feel free to move around work and see it from different angles. I often have a few paintings in progress at the same time and need to spend time looking at each work in its various stages of production before knowing what to do to it next. I also have a table where I will sit and do clean work such as drawings, collages and other works on paper that help to develop later paintings. These works are more like ‘thoughts’ and I like to have a clear, uncluttered space to make them in. There’s storage areas too where I keep finished work, these are quite organized spaces so I know where everything is.


Any projects you would like to do in the future?

Nothing specific – I enjoy collaborating with people and am lucky that I have regular invitations to be in shows and take part in projects. At the moment I’m doing as much as time allows me to and one project or exhibition often leads to another. I have a few plans for future projects in the early stages of development but nothing well developed enough to divulge yet.



Favorite artists?

Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse, Jean Spencer, Gillian Wise, Lygia Pape, Helen Frankenthaler, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Fred Sandback, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg, I could go on…


What’s your advice for young artists? or what’s the best advice ever given to you?

I think the most important thing is to be engaged and passionate about your own work, other peoples’ work and the critical and professional context around it. Making work is difficult, confusing and tiring – the struggle to understand what you are doing it real but if you own the difficulties associated with sustaining a practice then that’s an important part of the battle won. Give yourself permission to fail – test things out, challenge yourself and be determined. Accept that success (whatever that means to you) is not a race. Be kind to people, the art world is small and behaving badly won’t help you to do well. Be proactive, do lots of ambitious, exciting things and then more of the same will come your way.


Any interesting facts you would like to share?

I can’t think of anything, maybe I’m not very interesting…


View more of Peter’s work on Instagram @charleypeters