Notes on the Palm Beach Stories series, part of moments/stories - paintings by Peter Beston
an exhibition at MM Fine Art Gallery, Southampton NY, April 27 to May 19 2019
This series of five paintings, each three foot six high by six feet wide, is set in the sub-topical environment of southern Florida, and draws on Peter's long career in film and his love of movies. Each picture evokes a different movie genre and contains narrative threads that reflect elements of that genre. The paintings consider aspects of the human condition, and our relationship with the natural environment.
This painting looks at the fragility and vulnerability of the environment, and how easily it could be tipped into chaos and disaster. A meteor plunges earthwards, reflected in the café window, but is unseen or ignored by humanity. Almost incidental in the composition, the missile is witnessed only by two delicate dogs. The large blank wall in the center of the picture suggests impending oblivion, which would sweep aside civilization's achievements, including art and architecture, café society, sidewalks, cities, and flora and fauna, both natural and genetically engineered.
While you Were Sleeping
In this play on romance, a reworking of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty places a modern would-be prince in front of an impenetrable barrier. He is unable to achieve his wish, to be with the princess, who sleeps in the pink palace beyond the hedge. Touching on the complexity of desire and the imagined ideal, it also poses the question, "Who is the sleeper?". Is it his inamorata within the palace, or is he the sleeper, dreaming of an unattainable ideal?
When Worlds Collide
A weirdly geometrical house sits isolated on the frontier between humanity's world and a lushly exploding tropical forest. The deserted street disappears into infinity, leading nowhere. Here, the clash between the man-made and natural worlds is highlighted to the maximum - and in the guise of a science-fiction story is intensified even further by the distorted reflection in the sphere that hovers in the top right corner. Is it merely a wing-mirror or a street-reflector, or is it an alien craft observing this strange scene? Perhaps the house is more alien in this setting than a UFO.
Out of the Past
The subjects of violence and anger are touched on in this painting. Evoking the atmosphere of a crime thriller, the long, low, yellow house appears incongruous in the claustrophobic setting of the dark, spiky and foreboding vegetation. The focus falls on the gun, discarded on the sidewalk. What has happened, or is about to happen at this crossroad? The explosive shape of the yucca plant, front and center, suggests that the gun has recently been fired.
The Awful Truth
In the last painting of the series, the genre is farce. The alligator is returning from the condo lake, seen reflected in the windows, back to its native habitat behind the diner. The huge contrast between the real flesh-and-blood creature and its trivialized depiction on the diner sign highlights the conflict between the native flora and fauna of the region and the efforts of its human residents to tame and civilize it. Meanwhile, the driver of the yellow Camaro has fled - who is the winner here?