Art - Peter Messer
Before interviewing the Lewes artist Peter Messer I pop into
the Star Gallery to see his latest exhibition being hung.
I love it. The paintings are mostly set in Lewes: there are
flint walls and silhouettes of the castle. But there’s
nothing twee about them: Messer is not looking for picture-postcard
prettiness, he’s depicting something much darker, much
more internal. There’s usually something furtive or
slightly supernatural going on. Blurry figures sneak over
a wall; snowdrops form in the shape of a man pushing a bicycle;
somebody incongruously swims in a stream under a bridge. A
girl with webbed hands crawls around the Brooks with her terrier.
In my favourite picture a man in an old-fashioned suit walks
along Station Street. He is clearly unhappy. The paintings
are difficult to define, completely unique. There is a lot
of realism to them, but everything’s seen through a
filter of slightly stylised surreality, too.
I meet Messer in the Lewes Arms and buy him a pint of Harvey’s.
I ask him where the paintings come from. “I get them
for free and I sell them to you,” he says. Then he turns
more sincere. “I work a small compass. I live in Market
Street and work in the Paddock Studios and I have a share
of an allotment opposite Castle Cottage and another allotment
in the Paddock, where the shed is.” (His garden shed
features prominently in his work). “I don’t travel
well, as I get confused easily. I’m a bit like the kid
with Asperger’s in the Curious Incident of the Dog in
the Night, who doesn’t understand the desire to go on
holiday because there’s too much still to learn about
home. I see things in a different light every day, so I don’t
need to go anywhere.”