- Peter Messer (continued)
I mention that there’s something dark in his work. “Darkness?”
he replies. “It’s there because I’ve got
it, I think it, I feel it out, I find out where it is and
I learn to feel comfortable alongside it. You live in an interior
world, sometimes this is strange and alienating, sometimes
it’s on your side, and sometimes there are bits in the
middle where you can play with stuff. As a kid I would rush
home in terror because of the way a piece of light fell on
the ground. I’ve found a way of dealing with that. I
have evolved a physical skill to do that: it’s a very
labour intensive way of working.”
Messer generally uses tempura mixed with pigment, which he
paints over a gesso and rabbit skin glue base. He scratches
at the surface to produce the effect of light. “It’s
the method people like Fra Angelico and Botticelli used to
use,” he says. I ask him about his influences. “I
get emotional influences from other artists,” he says.
“Other painters seep into what I do. Ben Shahn, Munch,
even Eric Ravilious. Blake. Samuel Palmer. I ask him about
the painting ‘Fireworks from the Moat Garden’
in which a furtive figure runs along alongside a flint wall
while fireworks explode in the sky. “That was an incident
when I was going to the Proms in the Paddock with some friends.
I went back home because I’d forgotten something, and
the fireworks started before I could get back to the party.
The painting describes that mood.” I mention that he
appears a lot in his work. “When I paint a vase of flowers
I’m every fucking flower in the vase,” he says.
“I wouldn’t have gone to the bother of learning
how to paint if I couldn’t put myself into it.”