‘The project was pleasingly indulgent, a free licence to propose nearly anything,’ says Mick Peter in an interview
Mick Peter’s latest show, Gerroff!! (or User Feedback), opens this year’s artistic program and summer events in the lovely, recently restored grounds of Hospitalfield in Arbroath, Scotland. His characters appear to be acting out a series of connected, amusing situations, and guests are encouraged to interact with them as they wander the grounds. Incorporating comic-book images and the inherent disruption of categorical divisions between cartoon drawing and sculpture, the piece subverts the normal relationship between the public and “fine art.”
CS: Could you tell me a little about your collaboration with the Hospitalfield team and how that informed the installation?
MP: It was a delightfully gratifying opportunity to offer nearly anything. Of course, [Hospitalfield’s director] Lucy Byatt and [its programming and communications manager] Cicely Farrer must have been reasonably certain that it wouldn’t be too bad!
CS: Has the opportunity to work outside influenced or impacted your practice?
MP: It’s becoming more expensive to produce – the two appear to go hand in hand! I was also more interested in public liability insurance than I had been in the past. But, seriously, all of the work was done at Three Four Five Furniture in Glasgow, where I received expert fabrication assistance because we needed to work with a large CNC machine to cut the drawings into the composite material [a “computer numerical control” machine cuts materials such as plastic or metal to a high degree of specification].
CS: How long have you been making these life-size drawings or sculptures, and what led you to this decision?
MP: For the past ten years, I’ve been creating sculptures that resemble large sketches. I think of each project on its own terms, so I don’t think of them as a brand per se because I do a variety of things.
CS: Your characters seem to have been “liberated” from the limits of pages and a smaller size. Do you believe the recent lockdowns have had an impact on how you (and others) view your practice? Does this have any bearing on how you envision your future career evolving? To put it another way, would you want to further liberate or confine your characters?
MP: It depends entirely on the following project. Despite the constraints, I believe I’ve completed the assignment. I’m hoping that the next significant endeavor will take place when there are few, if any, constraints. All of this hasn’t caused me to drastically alter my behavior. It’s made me grateful to have something fun to do when I’m unable to travel freely throughout the country. However, if you have a nice book or a sketchpad, you won’t be too unhappy.
CS: What materials did you utilize in these sculptures, and why did you choose those materials? Were there any specific difficulties in creating outdoor sculptures due to Arbroath’s inclement weather?
MP: I think I’ve reached the end of my wipe-clean phase. These sculptures are made of the same composite material that is used to build high-end kitchen countertops. The linework is carved out of white or grey paper and then filled in with black. It’s not just on the surface; it has a terrazzo appearance, or, if you prefer, a stick of rock.
CS: Did this relationship play a role in your Hospitalfield site-specific project, or have these characters and comics impacted you in the past?
MP: Hospitalfield is closer to a McDonald’s “drive-thru”… fortunately, this has had no impact on the project. As a kid, I used to subscribe to the Beano, and my favorite strip was Bash Street Kids, which had the best artwork. I’d try to figure out what kind of pen David Sutherland used by copying his line work. There was also a Wham bar glued to the cover of the Beano, which was rather thrilling.