“I’m not an artist who is comfortable with pigeonholing myself,” says oil painter Peter Roux. “When I work with representational art I get itchy to do abstracts, and when I do abstracts, I start to see these representational forms appear. I can’t imagine sticking to just one [technique].”
When confronted by an abstract painting, he points out, viewers naturally seek familiar forms to help them process what they’re seeing. But when looking at works of realism — even photorealism — it’s still just an illusion.
“There’s a lot more similarity between the two languages of abstraction and realism than most people think about,” he says. “For me it’s an interesting challenge to make the two vocabularies work together. Either way, it’s mark-making on a surface. It’s more about how we see than what we see. Like when you watch a movie, it’s just projected light. But we suspend our disbelief. A detailed painting of a field is not a field. The stuff making the field is colored glue, which is all that paint really is.”
Roux loves to play around with those fuzzy edges where realism melts into abstraction and abstraction transits toward something concrete and recognizable. In his most recent series of paintings, clouds, with their endlessly mutating ethereal boundaries, are a jumping-off point for this kind of exploration.
He’s also intrigued by the ways that technology influences what people see, or fail to see, within their everyday environment. Much of what is visually presented has been digitized, edited, and altered, and that phenomenon tweaks his curiosity and helps inform his work.
In order for a movie to be adapted to a TV screen, Roux explains, it has to be reformatted so that a black border appears around it, almost like a picture frame. But so much of what is seen in modern life — especially on the periphery — goes undetected. Roux likes to highlight that phenomenon, to offer viewers a fresh experience. In some of his pieces, for example, he imposes a black border across an edge of the painting in a way that can jolt a person into noticing it.
“Every piece I do causes a minute shift in how I see the world,” he acknowledges. “My hope is that I might cause that in someone else: that someone may have an imperceptible shift in who they are after they see my work, versus before they saw it.”
The Peter Roux Studio, 191 Lyman St. in Asheville’s River Arts District (#249 inside Riverview Station). For more information, see peterrouxartist.com, e-mail email@example.com, or check out the artist on Instagram: @peterrouxart. His exhibit The Cloud Paintings runs through November 30 at Upstairs ArtSpace in Tryon (49 South Trade St., 828-859-2828, upstairsartspace.org).