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Peter Burton is my brother. He began painting and drawing when he was a teenager. At the age of nineteen he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and for nearly thirty years had no interest in continuing with his art. After spending time in a large mental hospital in Maidstone, he moved onto community based housing in the Medway area. In 2008 he was once again moved to Rainham in Kent, where he grew up and some of his family still live. Perhaps the familiar surroundings triggered something in Peter because one day he found some scrap paper and old felt tip pens and again began to draw. Now he draws and paints every day and he is prolific; it can be a challenge to make sure he has sufficient materials to work with. The motifs for his work are often portraits that tend to be in sequences, with several being worked on simultaneously. He will revisit the same subject and composition multiple times. His subjects are often family members but also include celebrities as well as some still lives. The interesting thing about his work is not so much their seeming similarity, but in the quite marked contrast and experimentation that happens across a series. It is astonishing that although he had literally not picked up a pencil or paintbrush for thirty years, his sensibility and technical skill as an Artist was evident even from the first sketches. Making sense of his work can present something of a conundrum to the viewer; the question of his mental health (if known about) cannot but impose assumptions and perhaps prejudice in interpretation. Peter is not forthcoming in explaining his work. It is also unclear if or for how long he will continue to produce this extraordinary work.
The Project Idea
Our primary aim is to make sure that Peter can carry on working but also to make his art available to a larger audience. Initially with a small exhibition in London. We have found a gallery in Brick Lane (http://www.thebricklanegallery.com) that charges £500 to participate in a group show. We need to have his worked framed which is why we need £1000. We are hoping that the exhibition will attract interest in his work as well as some revenue from sales. We plan to reinvest the money into forthcoming shows and exhibitions and in developing online sales.
Risks and challenges
The project being about Peter as an artist, faces the same challenges that any emerging artist faces… these being, publicising his work, building a reputation and continuing to build and develop his output. Peter faces specific challenges as an artist in that he will not be able to promote the work himself, he’s not able to discuss or explain it with friends and family let alone any media outlets and wouldn’t be able to network with other artists or in artistic circles. Also, living in care does restrict production of the work as the institution caring for him imposes fairly strict rules on the materials he has access to. One of the longer term goals of the project is to provide Peter with studio space to work in and a wider range of materials to work with.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)