Auckland artist Peter Stichbury’s seductive paintings engage in pointed dialogue with the world of popular culture. Peter Stichbury: The Alumni is the first major public gallery exhibition highlighting Stichbury’s work to date. Drawing directly from the commercial imagery of advertising and celebrity, he delivers back exaggerated renditions which question our attachment to such images.
Peter Stichbury’s painted characters fill the gallery walls like the extreme sub-sets of a school – the beauties, the nerds, the normal, and totally strange. The school system is the ground upon which Stichbury as artist builds. His paintings engage with the hierarchies, pecking orders and power games of the classroom, which in turn, are both a microcosm and a distortion of the social world.
The celluloid world of film and television and the wider realm of pop and celebrity culture are rich sources. He is a modern day society painter, in the truest sense of the description. As such, he paints not only contemporary figures, but characters which operate within a contemporary understanding. The young men and women he depicts are seamless composites created from multiple images, the famous, the infamous and the deeply personal morphed together. This is painting not only for a post-Photoshop era but which operates knowingly within a ‘post-human’ environment, where genetic engineering and cosmetic surgery have collapsed the boundaries of what we consider natural.
Peter Stichbury’s paintings are alluring yet ultimately contrary. Glossy and highly polished of surface, beneath the immaculate facades of his portraits lurk a darker underbelly. Plastic surgery, skin disorders, eugenics and genetic engineering: the human body, his paintings suggest, occupies a kind of shifting and fluid terrain where all things are possible.