Self-taught artist Peter Burega, who will show April 20-21 and over the month of July at the SmithKlein Gallery in Boulder, has been creating effusive and visceral works for 20 years
Opting for trowels, scrapers and knives, artist Peter Burega’s abstract expressionism of moments in places are precisely textured pieces that inspire feelings of strange wistfulness, where the exactitude of the plot is scaled back by the mercurial nature of each picture.
The appeal of Burega’s work is to both the right and left brain. In painting the unevenness of a giant vista, for example, Burega hems together bits and pieces of the subject through a series of lines, grids and squares. In some ways it tames the image with context, allowing the eyes to drift endlessly over each detail while the brain is calmed with order.
On the first Saturday of July, Burega will open his third month-long show at the SmithKlein Gallery in Boulder. It will be called, In the Morning Light. Before that, Burega will be at SmithKlein on April 20-21 showcasing three to five works that have not yet been revealed.
Here, Burega discusses the Caribbean trip that inspired the work that will be shown in July, his evolution as an artist and his contributions to society as a creator.
John: At 52 years old and 20 years into making art fulltime, what should people know about you as an artist?
Peter: I think that, as a person and as a painter, I truly follow my heart. If something comes along and it takes me in a new direction, I go in a new direction. I don’t paint the same thing year after year and over and over. Every place I go infuses me with new energy and gives me new insight into human nature.
John: Currently, a lot of your work focuses on water, which is somewhat peculiar for an artist that lives in Sante Fe. Tell me more about your upcoming July show at the SmithKlein Galley in Boulder and how your trip to the Caribbean influenced the pieces that will go on display?
Peter: I’m fascinated with the way water meets the earth. I was drawn to the Caribbean because of how the humidity and wetness causes a complete saturation of color in the light. It is so different than the yellow world of Santa Fe.
When I was on the islands, we had a series of serious tropical storms. The sky would change from a paradise-blue to a dark and stormy black, and it was like these huge rolling eclipses coming in from that type of untold vista you get on a beach. There was such lushness in the light and color.
John: How do you describe your paintings and their evolution over time?
Peter: I’m inspired by very few artists and try not to spend much time looking at other work so that I can stay individual. Two people I am really influenced by are Turner (J. M. W. Turner, an English Romanticist landscape painter 1775-1851) and an influential painter from Mexico City named Victor Hugo Zaya (still living, known for his complicated textures).
I spent the first seven years learning who I was as a painter and went through a couple of developmental iterations of what I wanted my work to look like. My surfaces have gotten very complicated and obsessive. Every painting now takes weeks of adding and scraping away hundreds of layers of paint. The technique has been all trial and error, but the subject matter has always stayed abstract, landscape and expressionist.
John: How, then, as a process-oriented artist, do you know when something is finished?
Peter: When I feel that balance has been reached. There is a point where I feel the movement and energy are matching what I need it to in terms of control.
John: What role do you feel you fill in society as a creator of art?
Peter: When I first started painting, I just wanted to make things that were attractive. Now, I think of it as my commentary, which is finding the beauty in the things that are not necessarily attractive anymore.