I was looking amongst my collection of art books and catalogues the other day and chose to look at an exhibition catalogue of artist Peter Prendergast (1946-2007). The catalogue was from a touring exhibition of his work shown at Agnew’s Gallery in 1993. Reading the interview from the catalogue made me recall my own art history thesis, written in the final year of my degree course. One of the artists I chose to base the dissertation on was the Yorkshire painter Len Tabner (b.1946). It was Len Tabner, a great friend of Peter’s from their MA days at Reading University, who suggested that I should contact Peter Prendergast.
Peter was a lovely man, so generous of his time. He invited me to visit him in Bethesda, North Wales and put me up in his attic studio. He took me down into the village where we enjoyed a few pints. Reading the interview reminded me of many of the things he talked about, such as the importance of drawing as the basis of making sound paintings.
‘Drawing is very important. I, personally, definitely need to draw. I am not the sort of person who can sit in front of a landscape and have the facility to sum it up in seconds. I have always found composition difficult because I don’t do it naturally. Drawing allows me to work quickly, fast, to take risks in sorting out a composition. It enables me to try to understand the nuts and bolts of what makes up a particular landscape, to walk right round and right through it so that when I begin to make a painting I can take liberties and chances.’ #
Absolutely. Having flirted with using photography in my art I have come to realise that such short cuts are not the answer to making good paintings. Even when I put many levels of work between a finished work and a photograph source you are always working from nothing more than a record of a thousandth of a second of light.
Peter Prendergast worked from drawings made in the field and Len Tabner works directly in front of the motif. They felt it crucial to absorb and revel in the landscape they worked from. Strong single minded artists they came from similar backgrounds. Maybe that is why the work has to be won, trusted only via the sincerity of hard work
#Peter Prendergast interviewed by Robert Amstrong for Peter Prendergast Paintings from Wales