In the first weeks of the covid pandemic, William Peers began work on a series of monumental carvings of heads in marble. For a sculptor whose work has been largely concerned with abstraction for nearly two decades, these carvings marked a radical change in his work.
“For people familiar with my work this series of carvings may come as a surprise for I have made a complete change from abstract carving to figurative. They are, without question, a reaction to the pandemic which has affected us all in one way or another. The need to acknowledge the change which settled on the world, took a little while to manifest itself with me, but when it came, it came with a rush. I think the carving of heads at this time has felt like the right thing to do. It feels as if our species itself is being threatened, tested and challenged by the virus in a way that has brought us, literally to a standstill. What better way for me than to turn my attention inwards. Never in my lifetime has there been such a moment in which to reflect on the way forward. The months carving these heads have been months spent thinking not only about the carving but about this perhaps ultimate challenge, of how we on this earth might move forward together. The sculptures themselves, at least for me, have taken on these thoughts and, as happens with carving, begun to absorb or inhabit them. I should make clear that I have not set out to carve a likeness of anyone; these heads are in a way, abstract. I assemble the parts and try and make them fit together in a way that I like. It is only when I stand back that I see someone. Someone new, or old. Who is it, this person that has grown from my subconscious? Nobody, or perhaps everybody? I realise that for me they seem timeless and take me back to the beginning of time. They could be from any era and the race seems to be unclear and shifting and even the sex is ambiguous. I am also conscious that I am creating a statue, albeit a statue of no one in particular, in a time when the very existence of statues is in question. I think of them to be closer to the tombs of the unknown soldiers which have always been more poignant to me than the generals on columns. Although these have been my musings whilst carving this series, many people will just see a head, which is fine.”
About William Peers
William Peers studied at Falmouth Art College after which he was apprenticed to a stone-carver, Michael Black, who urged him to work slowly and entirely by hand. Peers worked in the marble quarries of Carrara, Italy, and later spent time in Corsica where he found a tranquil retreat to work and develop his ideas. His earliest carvings were figurative and followed the long history of English stone carving brought to prominence by Henry Moore and Eric Gill. In the 1990s Peers moved to north Cornwall and there followed a period of fifteen years carving relief sculptures in Hornton Stone and slowly moved towards abstraction. In 2007 he began working in Portuguese Marble, a material which had a dramatic effect on the style of his work. In 2010 he embarked on a series ‘100 Days: Sketched in Marble’ in which he carved a marble sculpture each day for one hundred days. Working repeatedly within a time limit led him to a bolder approach to carving and allowed him the freedom to create more dynamic forms. The switch to marble also allowed Peers to develop his technical skills to allow him to work on a far larger scale, creating several monumental sculptures designed for the landscape.
William Peers has exhibited with the John Martin Gallery since 1997. He has exhibited with the On Form Sculpture Festival at Asthall Manor, Glyndebourne Festival and the Armory, New York (2002). Other exhibitions have been held with Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town and London.
About John Martin Gallery
For three decades the John Martin Gallery has represented an emerging group of painters and sculptors, giving them an international platform and helping to develop their careers and reputations through exhibitions, museum collaborations, publications and film. Since 1992, the gallery has been located at 38 Albemarle Street, off Piccadilly, moving to its large, first floor space in 2015 where we hold exhibitions ten times a year. In 2021 the gallery opened an additional office in the new gallery buildings of Cromwell Place in South Kensington allowing us to offer an expanded programme of shorter exhibitions throughout the year. By joining our guest list, or following us on social media, we hope that you will develop a deeper understanding of the gallery and the artists we work with as well as letting you discover works of art that you may want to own.
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William Peers, Origin III