Peter Brooke’s Ethereal Paintings Strike a Balance Between Landscape and Dreamscape

Neither wholly idealized landscapes, nor entirely fabricated dreamscapes, Peter Brooke’s oil-on-panel vistas, on view now at Boston’s Gallery Naga in “Darkness and Wonder,” precariously negotiate the slippery boundaries between the real and the hyperreal.

  • Installation view "Darkness and Wonder," on view at Gallery Naga, Boston, 2015. Courtesy Gallery Naga. 

Chock full of apparently contradictory visual information, Brooke’s ethereal paintings somehow transcend the natural world, even while sedulously replicating it. Works painted from an improbable bird’s eye view also possess a microscopic quality, as if the viewer is peering into a petri dish. The solitary, hazy landscapes devoid of all visible activity—human or otherwise—have an imposing presence. The perceptible sense of calm that comes from a natural landscape lacking people is stifled by a sensation akin to being in the mindspace between sleep and waking. Everything appears at once intimately familiar and harrowingly strange.

The landscapes in Brooke’s vistas feel ambiguous, depicting either a terrain teetering on the brink of looming disaster, or one which has recently returned to an unspoiled state after some sort of devastating deluge. Poised at a moment of transition between two conditions, these landscapes create an effect akin to that of a still life, where the narrative appears at once embalmed and animated, all while imparting the portentous realization that it’s subject will inevitably fade.

—Grace-Yvette Gemmell

Darkness and Wonder” is on view at Gallery Naga, Boston, Oct. 9-Nov. 7, 2015.

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