New, recent, and older works by Peter Michael Gish are vivid proof of the 92-year-old artist’s keen eye for color and sure hand in the layers of his subtle brushwork. They are on exhibit at the Jessie Edwards Studio on the second floor the Post Office building from August 24 -September 5. The opening reception is on Saturday, August 25, from 5-7 pm.
Combining new works and older pieces, this exhibit is something of a retrospective of Gish’s work. Most are oils-on-canvas and watercolors painted over the winter and spring; others are works from recent years and include a pastel and pen-and-ink drawings not seen before in the gallery.
Thinking back over 75 years of painting, Gish recently observed that “the excitement of seeing and being faithful to what the eye sees” is most important. Gish’s vision is, indeed, full of vitality and variety. For example, Gish’s eye was caught by the texture of pebbles and rocks, the shimmering reflections of the water, and the clarity of the light on the sand and the surf. Those qualities are exactly what he captures in “Spring Street Shore,” a large oil-on-canvas.
“I am more of a colorist now than when I was younger,” Gish said, and gave “Southeast Path to the Ocean with Deepwater” as an example. In this oil-on-canvas, the snow-covered path to the bluffs is cast in clear light and soft shadows of blue and grey; however, it was the yellow tones in the light that intrigued him. The yellows bring brightness and warmth to the winter scene and draw our eyes to the deep blue water where the blades of two snow-white turbines connect sea and sky. Another winter pathway, “Southeast Path,” is a different path to the bluffs, sans windmills, but has a similar effect with stronger, deeper shadows along the snow bank.
“Sea Gull” is a winsome oil-on-canvas of a gull, insouciant in its self-possession as it looks directly at us while pausing in a shimmering, rippling pool of water. Here, too, the warm yellows in the reflection of the gull’s white breast, yellow beak and eye convey the vitality of the moment.
For Gish, watercolors are a “wonderful medium to respond to nature — more immediate.” For example, in “Old Harbor Ferry,” an older work depicting the ferry leaving a very quiet harbor with the National and the Surf hotels in the background, in one quick sweep of the brush, Gish captures the moment of departure as a streak of gray smoke streams from the smokestack into the sky. “Mansion Beach Dunes” conveys the mutability of light and shadow in the movement of the green dune grasses as they cast long soft gray shadows along the white contours of a beach path.
Most of the still-lifes are watercolors, and they are full of the immediacy and freshness of newly picked flowers. In “Lilacs,” delicate, long stems bend gracefully under the purple blossoms, while “Iris” is a denser cluster of thicker stems and the blue flags of the blossoms. “Summer Field Flowers” is a cluster of many different flowers quickly plunked into a glass vase of water. Two exceptions are “Still Life with Lemons,” an oil-on-canvas of three bright yellow lemons, two garlic gloves, and a glass pitcher, and “Onions in a Basket,” a pastel.
Gish’s love of spontaneity is also seen in two small pen-and-ink drawings of musicians. Gish likes to bring a small sketch pad with him when he attends concerts. The two 8”x 8” drawings are swift studies of two different violinists, their bows poised in performance.