All my life I’ve been fascinated by the way things work, how they’re made, fit together and come apart. I always wanted to understand the structure of things and then make stuff myself. Eventually I became an engineer and for some years designed printing machines and later equipment for disabled children. Long before that - from about age 10 to 16 - I was into photography: image making, but also the mechanics of it - cameras, lenses, light, film and the wonderful chemistry of the “darkroom” which is experiencing a bit of a revival. I also used to draw weird pictures of space ships, people and other stuff I can’t remember now.
In my 20s I did more drawing and became interested in art, especially painting. Perhaps it was the influence of my Spanish studies, looking at the strange imagery of Goya, El Greco, Zurbaran. I wanted to understand how they achieved the effects that they create with colour, texture, form and particularly space and composition. What makes a painting work? What are the mechanics of it? So I set out to learn, not just by reading, studying and looking at art but by doing it myself: trial and error; a lot of both.
This was all in my spare time while I was busy studying and working as a chef (the mechanics of food) and then as an engineer. So progress was rather sporadic, but in between painting sessions I was often thinking about art, reading about it, visiting exhibitions and trying to understand it. Around 1999/2000 I shared a studio on Eel Pie Island in Twickenham and sold some paintings from there.
In 2014 the opportunity arose to quit the day job and dedicate myself to painting, nearly 20 years after I first picked up a brush as an adult. Since then, in a spirit of experimentation I have tried out a lot of different things. My aim is to create new and surprising images with their own unique presence in the world. I have explored renaissance painting techniques and made incredibly life-like portraits, pushing the potential of the process to its limits. Most recently my paintings have turned into sculptures, acquiring layers like wooden collages, capturing small spaces and adding exciting new elements, including figures. To see more visit the gallery "Captive Spaces".
If you're interested in having a go at egg tempera painting I have written a short "How To" guide which you can download here: Pete Swann guide to egg tempera