FEATURE: Peter Hanmer – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Plato’s Lair, mixed media installation, modelled figures etc. Dimensions variable, 2018.  Image by Colin Davison and Paul Stephenson

We caught up with artist Peter Hanmer ahead of his new work showing as part of the Masters Degree show at Newcastle University on Friday 24th August. Here, he talks inspiration…

I draw on a variety of interests including history, political philosophy and storytelling; to create allegorical, dystopian and strangely disturbing sculptural works.  My work reflects my interest in the power of art as a cultural and political critique; as described by the literary theorist Terry Eagleton:

 …one of the great humanist functions of culture is to open some daylight between its self and the rest of our social practices and institutions so it could actual operate as a critique of them

In May 2018 I opened Plato’s Lair a site-specific installation at Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden, Northumberland; commissioned as part of the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of The Year award 2017. The work is inspired and influenced by The Allegory of the Cave featured in Plato’s seminal work The Republic.

Within the large Victorian potting shed in the grounds of the centuries old Cheeseburn Grange House and Gardens in Northumbria I created a miniature society of bird like figures.  Some of which seem content to watch television or picnic in the damp and dusty gloom, while others desperately try to escape into the sunlight looking for life beyond the potting shed. Guards police all the exits however and tyrannical leaders direct events in this tiny dictatorship.

In the Allegory of the Cave Plato asks us to imagine people shackled all their lives facing the wall of a cave where flickering shadows play; how this would become their only reality.  The allegory is intended to provoke questions about the nature of reality; how we believe we know the world through our experience of it but that this may be subliminally or forcefully influenced and distorted. It’s these sorts of ideas I find fascinating to play with. In my figurative works I aim to test and often satirise accepted wisdom and conventional truths. Human constructs such as the hierarchy of human over animal for example. The otherness of the birdlike beings in Plato’s Lair is to provide a distance for the viewer who observes a different yet identifiable character; an allegory for themselves, therefore transforming the potting shed into miniature replication of their own society.

Running concurrent with the Master of Fine Art degree Show, Cheeseburn Gardens’ final two open weekends of the Summer on Saturday 25th-Monday 27th August and Saturday 1st-Sunday 2nd September, from 11am until 4pm.

Peter Hanmer’s installation is part of the Masters Degree show at Newcastle University from Friday 24th August until Saturday 8th September.

Terry Eagleton in Conversation with Roger Scruton. Accessed July 17, 2018. 


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