Collie is so now | The West Australian | Ralph Lauren

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Collie is fast becoming an arts and culture hotspot. There’s the Collie Mural Trail, which takes in Guido Van Helten’s recently-completed Wellington Dam mural Reflections — the largest mural in the Southern Hemisphere. And there’s the Collie Regional Art Gallery — only the second A-Class gallery in WA, after the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

From 2pm this Saturday, you’ll have yet one more reason to head down to this picturesque South West town, about 210km from Perth, with the opening of The Past Stops Now, an exhibition of paintings and drawings from 2008 to the present by acclaimed award-winning WA artist Peteris (Peter) Ciemitis.

Shortlisted for the Archibald Prize in 2007 and 2008 and winning the Lester Prize in 2010, Peter is known for his large-scale portraiture featuring such luminaries as arts legend Robyn Archer, jazz virtuoso Paul Grabowsky and journalist Peter Greste.

His work has been acquired by significant galleries such as the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and the National Museum of Art in Latvia as well as several major Chinese state and private galleries in Beijing and Hangzhou.

Locally, Peter was included in the Bunbury Biennale in 2009, and went on to represent Australia in the Qingdao International Art Biennale and the Hangzhou Qianjiang International in China, the Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh and the collateral programme of the Venice Biennale in 2017.

Peter’s portrait of jazz legend Paul Grabowsky, which was shortlisted in the 2008 Archibald.
Camera IconPeter’s portrait of jazz legend Paul Grabowsky, which was shortlisted in the 2008 Archibald. Credit: Digital Sales Demo/Supplied

Peter says the title of the exhibition could refer equally to the town of Collie.

“Although the title The Past Stops Now refers to the retrospective nature of this exhibition, the same can be said for Collie. In many respects the The Future Starts Now. This is one of the reasons I was inspired to hold this exhibition here.”

He adds that the title has many other layers of meaning. The past is a foundation and inspiration for new work. Thus does the artist evolve. Additionally, portraiture looks inwards as well as outwards.

“I have always been interested in the effects of social and technological change on our behaviours and psyches,” he says. “I remember reading Alvin Toffler’s popular book Future shock in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until recently that I really started to take notice of the background anxiety and stress from runaway change has become commonplace in our world, just as Toffler predicted.

“Brought about by rapid cultural, social, economic and technological change, almost everybody in our communities is affected. The anchor of predictability has been pulled up, and we are all drifting in a sense. In fact, if you think about it from this perspective, then many unanticipated world events such as the election of Donald Trump start to become quite logical reactions to this age of anxiety. An attempt to halt the change.

“My works don’t really deal with the outward effect of these changes. They try to examine our internal state, and our loss of connection with the past … even the recent past.”

The Past Stops Now includes new paintings and drawings which will be on public display for the first time.

“I’m particularly excited by this show; it’s the first time I’ll see some of the key works I’ve produced over the last decade, together in one place myself.”

Peter’s 2010 Lester Prize-winning portrait of festival director Robyn Archer.
Camera IconPeter’s 2010 Lester Prize-winning portrait of festival director Robyn Archer. Credit: Supplied

fact file

  • The Past Stops Now opens 2pm Saturday May 8 and runs until June 13. Entry is free.
  • There will be a free artist talk at 10.30am on Sunday May 9.
  • Collie Art Gallery is at 134 Throssell Street, Collie. Opening hours are 10am-4pm, Thursday to Monday.

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