Peter Rush is the 2022/23 Blacktown City Art Prize winner for his work Sightlines, The Blacktown Native Institution site. Standing here, it’s placeless, I felt erasure, ignorance (my own), indifference. Peter is a prolific urban landscape artist who has worked in the Blacktown community for many years. As an architect by trade, Peter works with materials that range from pen and paper to used cereal boxes to capture the mood, expression and texture of city streets.
We sat down with Peter to hear about his creative practice, connection to Blacktown and his advice for artists wanting to get into urban sketching.
If you are interested in learning from Peter, he is hosting a one-off urban sketching workshop on Saturday 25 February, which you can book here.
Hi Peter, thank you so much for joining us.
Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and your practice.
I really enjoy exploring the urban environment and through my love of drawing recording the moments of places I find. My work is essentially architectural, not in an analytical deductive way but a personal introspective observation, to feel the mood and energy of a place.
What interests you about the urban landscape?
I particularly enjoy drawing everyday places that local people will recognise but represented in a spatially dynamic way that will immerse the observer to make an emotional connection into that place.
Over the years you have worked extensively in Blacktown and this place centres much of your work. What makes Blacktown such an important place for you?
The places I concentrate on tend to find me, it’s very serendipitous. Drawing on the street is a contemplative process, you see people getting about their lives, you never know what opportunities will come about. It’s has been the people I have met at Blacktown who take hold. It’s also the lovely community at Blacktown Arts, they keep me connected and keep drawing me back.
Could you tell us the story behind your 2022/23 Blacktown City Art Prize winning work, Sightlines, The Blacktown Native Institution site. Standing here, it’s placeless, I felt erasure, ignorance (my own), indifference.?
This drawing came about from my involvement in the Songlines and Sightlines exhibition, curated by Tian Zhang, collaborating with Leanne Watson and Erin Wilkins. Leanne, who is a Darug knowledge holder, specifically asked me to the draw the Blacktown Native Institution for the exhibition. I had no idea about the place nor its significance (my ignorance) This drawing came later, it took me time to understand how I could represent the site as it appears today. It shows so little of its history. The fence is about dislocation and dispossession. My position is sitting low on the ground, that’s about being on the land, it’s about the campsites that the women established to be near their children interned in the institution. The roadway and signs, looking to the wider city and the recognition that the site is the origin of Blacktown. The edges of the drawing are two things, that the site is placeless, there is no defined sightline from the colonial point of view, it’s appears a wasteland. The counter point though is that the undefined edges represent together with the tree an acknowledgement of Country, my respect for the traditional Custodians of the land and their relationship with the land. The tree particularly is a personification of the continuing connection by First Nations people to the land. The red sky, it’s a softer carmine, is my response, an expression of my emotion as the site revealed itself to me.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to get into urban sketching?
Urban sketching is about connection. You’re on the street drawing a place and catching a moment in time. What you decide to capture is your decision, it’s what you see and feel. It slows you down and allows you to tap into your creativity.
If you are interested in learning the art of urban sketching, Peter is hosting a one-off workshop, Summer Sketching with
Peter Rush, on Saturday 25 February. Places are limited, secure your ticket here.
Image: Peter Rush at 2022/23 Blacktown City Art Prize by Liza Moscatelli