First Light: The Art of Peter Kingston, 28 March to 3 May

Peter Kingston, Back at the Bay, 2010, charcoal and gouache on paper, 151 x 282cm
Collection: Joy Morais, Alexander and Anthony Cornwell. Courtesy the artist and S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney

Peter Kingston is a well-known Australian artist who from a young age had a natural ability for drawing, and an interest in comics and film. He studied architecture at the University of New South Wales and contributed to underground university publication ‘Oz Magazine’, which was known for its association with 1960s counterculture. Kingston was also involved in the legendary Yellow House artists collective established by artist Martin Sharp at Potts Point around 1970-73. It was later in life though, that Kingston realised he had the inclination to paint and it was from this time that his magnificent reflections of harbour life on canvas flourished.

In celebration of the artist’s painterly vision, S.H. Ervin Gallery presents ‘First Light’ a survey exhibition curated by Barry Pearce, Emeritus Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Inspired by the recent book on Kingston’s arts practice (authored by the curator), the show is reminiscent of the epiphany the artist had in the early 1990s of his true calling.

Kingston was a neighbour and close friend of Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists. Around the time Whiteley died (1992), the then 50-year-old Kingston felt a deep awakening of his own creative energy. Reigniting his passion for the water he so loved growing up in Parsley Bay on Sydney’s eastern harbourside, with renewed artistic vigour, he bought a small fishing boat and spent many hours adrift drawing inspiration from the sights and sounds of the harbour as subject for his paintings.

Peter Kingston, Sydney Queen changes course, 1995, oil on canvas, 184 x 240cm
Private collection. Courtesy the artist and S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney

No longer in the shadow of his artist friend Whiteley, Kingston had the freedom to realise his own style and articulations as a painter and over the next 30 years he went on to produce some of his most accomplished works.

“I have spent countless nights watching the moon reflect upon the water, and the shadow of this great building creating colours and unique impressions each passing day,” says Kingston.

The show compiles a collection of works from the 1990s onwards including 37 paintings and 25 drawings, as well as Kingston’s artist books and a showcase of pieces from his personal collection of memorabilia and nostalgia.

Sitting atop historic Observatory Hill on Sydney’s highest peak and overlooking Sydney Harbour, S. H Ervin Gallery is the perfect venue for visitors to take in three decades of work that share Kingston’s impressions of the people, boats, ports and horizons that characterise one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.

Sunday 29 March, 3pm: ‘Arias and songs’ a music performance by Cinzia Montresor with a piano accompaniment by Stephanie Holmes.

Sunday 5 April, 3pm: Conversazione – listen to Kingston and curator Barry Pearce talking about the artist’s work and his vision.

Sunday 12 April, 3pm: Beagle Press publishers Lou Klepac and Mal Damkar discuss the genesis and concept of their new monograph ‘Peter Kingston: Paintings and Drawings’.

Sunday 19 April, 3pm: Peter Mann is engaged in the restoration of large bronze lanterns that originally graced Sydney Harbour Bridge, a key symbol of Kingston’s art. Mann and Leo Schofield discuss the project and other heritage issues close to theirs and Kingston’s heart. Bookings essential (02) 9258-0173.

Screen time
Saturday 2 May, 7pm: a film titled ‘First Light’ by Stephen Ramsey on the art and vision of Peter Kingston.

Visit for entry fees, open times and the gallery’s exhibition program.

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