We can only imagine what early explorers venturing off into the new world must have felt. Medieval maps and encyclopedic bestiaries give us some idea of the strange lands they expected to encounter, inhabited by mysterious figures and loathsome, fictitious beasts. Montreal, Canada based painter Peter Ferguson, previously featured here on our blog, seems to evoke this same combination of wonder, horror, excitement, and intrigue with a unique sense of bizarre humor in his artworks.
Often described as “National Geographic meets of H.P. Lovecraft”, Ferguson’s art takes us to a time when people’s perceptions of the world were entirely different, and when fantasy blurred with reality. Fur-clad explorers and their curious neighbors come face to face with creatures like giant puppies and lobsters, while in another part of his universe, characters linger in post-apocalyptic hang outs and drive space robots on sunny, off-planet terrain. (He set his sights on an illustration career after seeing the movie Star Wars.)
Newer works offer fresh iterations of ancient beasts such as a toothy golden dragon and a giant swine, screaming and tearing through a timeless countryside. Paintings like “Walkthrough Comptroller”, depicting a young official who makes his inspections with the aid of a spiny crab, makes one of several references to naturalist Ernst Haeckel’s drawings of scientific wonders.
Ferguson’s “Life Boats of a Sinking Witch” is a continuation of his darkly humorous narrative with classical touches. The exhibit, opening tonight at Roq La Rue in Seattle, combines age-old fantasy and paranormal visions of the future. Though his paintings don’t share any obvious connection, recurring, conflicting themes include evolution and religious reverence, and the challenges faced by industry versus rural life.
In an email to Hi-Fructose, Ferguson writes: “We were recently in Japan’s north on a train trip, going through a lot of smaller towns, and I was really attracted to the rusty dodgy bits; the alleys behind bar streets, decaying infrastructure, fishing piers, and so on. I found it very inspiring there, how everything is the same as North America, but completely different. A lot of the Ssurrealism I felt there ended up in my work.”
Peter Ferguson’s “Life Boats of a Sinking Witch” will be on view May 5th through May 28th, 2016.