Peter Stichbury is a contemporary Aotearoa/ New Zealand artist. Predominately a painter, he is renowned for his intricate psychological portraits of both real and imagined people that explore themes of popular culture, human consciousness, and science.Read More
Born in Auckland, Stichbury completed his post-graduate studies (Masters/ Honours Scholarship) at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 1997 and in the same year he won the prestigious Wallace Art Awards.
Stichbury's portraits are characterised by a graphic flatness and minute attention to detail described by Justin Paton as 'nearly oppressive flawlessness'.
His subjects share glossy complexions and overstated facial elements, the most striking of which are wide-set eyes and a mesmerising middle-distance gaze. This gaze is a signature of Peter Stichbury's portraits and evocative of early works by Lucian Freud and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Both these artists are key influences in the compositional elements of Stichbury's work and his expressive distortions of form.
Stichbury's early portraits draw heavily on the commercial imagery of advertising and celebrity, focusing on ideals of perfection revered in contemporary culture. Highlighted in his first major public gallery exhibition, The Alumni (2008), shown at Auckland's Te Tuhi art space, Stichbury's characters fulfil roles in imagined social hierarchies including teenage models, misfits and intellectuals. Their polished and modulated faces are almost distorted by the efforts of idealisation, revealing an unsettling and darker element of cosmetic surgery, skin disorders and genetic engineering.
In Stichbury's first New York exhibition The Proteus Effect, which took place in 2010 at Tracy Williams Ltd, his stylised portraits saw the artist explore the concept of digital avatar as a form of self-representation occurring within social media constructs like Facebook. Portraits, such as that of Mark Zuckerberg and Vimeo designer Zach Klein, elicited questions regarding authenticity and interpretation and how people convey themselves in the creation of their own virtual personas.
Stichbury's subsequent exhibition at Tracey Williams, Superfluous Man (2012) explored psychological and hierarchical manoeuvring of individuals in response to particular social conditions, where identities are formed online in social platforms. Defying notions of portraiture, the figures presented in the show did not depict individuals, rather archetypal personas culled from contemporary media and pop-cultural imagery.
Since 2014, Stichbury has continued an exploration of psychological narratives focusing on the borders of human consciousness and the paranormal. In High Strangeness (2017), presented at Gallery Baton in Seoul, Stichbury's work focused on the psychological and physiological effects on witnesses who claim to have seen unidentified aerial phenomena. Stichbury researched UFO documentaries, paranormal podcasts and scientific studies to create his subjects. They are marginalised and mysterious witnesses to something that evades conventional understanding of science and the universe.
His exhibitions at Michael Lett Gallery Ecology of Souls (2021) and Altered States (2018) presented a series of subjects who have purportedly survived near death experiences (NDE's). Stichbury is interested in how the areas of psychology, religion, and spirituality have all produced theories to explain NDE's and the idea of consciousness after death.
In 2021, Stitchbury's exhibition Ecology of Souls at Michael Lett Gallery presented seven paintings, each featuring a perfectly rendered subject turned slightly with their one ear to the audience against dreamy blue backgrounds. The titles of the pictures record the names of the subjects, yet none are commemorative portraits: Mary-Jo Rapini, Jessie Sawyer, Julia Fischer, Vita Ventura, Marty Martyn are references to real people who have spoken about their near death experience or reincarnation, while Elysium and Elysian Field, are attributed mythic titles based on the Greek term for the blessed afterlife, a resting place for the good and heroic. The subjects of these two pictures are modelled on real-life people, models Tasha Malek and Hang Yu.
Peter Stichbury's paintings are held in numerous international collections including the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, the James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, Nevada Museum of Art, USA, La Casa Encendida, Spain. Reviews of his work are published in several major art journals including Artforum and Modern Painters, and Hyperallergic.
Solo exhibitions include: Ecology of Souls, Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland (2021); Animals of God, Fine Arts, Sydney (2019); Altered States, Michael Lett Gallery (2018); High Strangeness, Gallery Baton, Seoul, South Korea (2017); Peter Stichbury: Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno (2016); Superfluous Man, Tracy Williams Ltd, New York (2012); The Proteus Effect, Tracy Williams Ltd, New York (2010) and The Alumni, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland (2008).
Stichbury's work has also been featured in group presentations including: Now, Then, Next: Time and the Contemporary, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, Christchurch (2019); Human Condition, The Hospital, Los Angeles (2016); Portraiture: the Art of Social Commentary, Te Tuhi, Auckland (2000) and Measure of Strangeness, Artspace, Auckland (2000).
Peter Stichbury's Instagram can be found here.
Frances Crombie | Ocula | 2021
Peter Stichbury's last portrait exhibition at Michael Lett's was of wonderfully delicate graphite drawings, but in this presentation he is back to his characteristically glowing, clean-faced, intensel
'In the afternoon of April 6, 1966, one of the most famous UFO cases in the world occurred over a school in Westall, Australia,' begins a passage on a handout that accompanied _Anatomy of a Phenomenon