April 29, 2003

CRUSADER

Paradise regained: Once tortured by personal demons, ruining his life and career with drink and drugs, Peter Howson has let Christ into his life and art. Unveiling here the first major work since his conversion, the 14 Stations of the Cross, he talks about visions, revelations and finding God (Peter Ross, 06 April 2003, Sunday Herald)
A FEW years ago, well after the time he was putting E800 worth of cocaine up his nose each week, but slightly before he had his religious awakening and gave up alcohol, Peter Howson was asked by Wolverhampton City Council to create a large painting representing the dreams of its citizens.

'All these people in Wolverhampton sent me their dreams,' he recalls. 'Most of them were very boring. They were dreams like 'My cat suddenly started talking to me.' So I ended up using a lot of my own dreams in the painting.

'The dreams I've had in my life have been apocalyptic epics where I'm escaping from Nazis, running through woods, finding lost cities, crawling through deserts, fighting battles and dying and going up to heaven or going into hell.'

You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to realise that such dreams say a lot about Howson, Scotland's best-known and most controversial painter of the last 20 years. Part showman, part shaman, he has spent two decades jabbing a brush in the public eye.

Although it was his astonishingly vibrant figurative work which first brought him to wide attention, he has remained highly visible thanks to regular confessional interviews in which he described addictions, autism, break-ups, breakdowns, and latterly his conversion to Christianity. Little wonder his dreams should feature fear, heroism, combat, death, praise, damnation and religion. There's simply no room for a talking cat in Howson's head.

And you could barely swing one in his studio. On the top floor of a former school in Glasgow's West End, Howson sits and smokes amid the clutter. Hundreds of classical music CDs are stacked round the walls, sworls of hardened oil paint crest like frozen waves on a table, a giant portrait of a bound Jesus dominates the room, and finds a profane reflection on the opposite wall in a picture of Trevor from EastEnders ripped from a magazine.

I'm here to interview Howson because he is just finishing a major commission. He has painted the 14 Stations of the Cross for a wealthy American collector to hang in his private chapel, where they will be used as devotional objects, hung alongside major works of religious art from the medieval and Renaissance periods. The paintings, which tell the story of Christ from being condemned to death to being laid in his tomb, will first be exhibited in London.

It seems right that the public should get a chance to see them, as they are among the most significant works of Howson's career.

'I don't think too many artists today are capable of coming to grips with spiritual themes,' says the collector, who wishes to remain anonymous. 'We are in an age now which is swinging from a very materialistic 20th Century to, I think, a very spiritual 21st century. I think this war we are going through now is the turning point. And if you look at Peter Howson's work, he is very timely. You can't paint the way he paints and not have a deep spiritual underpinning. He takes the soul and turns it inside out.'

Here's a piece called: "Crusader".

He means it as a warning. I take it literally instead and quite like it.


MORE:
-www.peterhowson.co.uk | The Official Howson Site
-Home Page of Peter Howson (ARTEXPERTS.COM)
-Contemporary War Art - Peter Howson
-Peter Howson (Belloclowndes)
-Peter Howson Collection
-VoyForums: Peter Howson
-Peter Howson Photography (CafePress.com)
-Peter Howson (ArtNet)
-Peter Howson @ Britart.com
-Art Gallery Vieleers - Salon d'Art - Painters
Beautiful South: Peter Howson's Other Art Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2003 9:52 PM
Comments for this post are closed.