Art - 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.”

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‘Something’s in the Lane’: Messer’s surreal imagination at work