Drawing and painting with, in and on the bottom of the ocean

Peter began his painting journey with the Pacific Ocean, “our largest body of water on earth”, after he had left the canvas in the ocean for days and days.
Sometimes buried in the sand or used to carry things, the 7 meter canvas x 152cm was carried, pushed, pulled
and changed by the forces and actions of the water and the landscape.
Peter says, “This photograph was taken a few days after a typhoon left the island of Taiwan so the rawness of the ocean and
the beach is very powerful. Occasionally, rocks from the cliff above fall and strike the canvas. Sometimes
it rains, sometimes it is bright and hot.
The painting changes with the ocean. The water takes the painting somewhere, it is always in a state of dynamic

Early morning on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. “The painting journey deepens”, Peter says.
A long length of rope is tied around the canvas.
“I am aware of the phyical nature of water more when I leave the painting on the rock and the waves and tide
interact with the painting. Sometimes the ocean takes the painting and I loose sight of it.
I am not interested in what images are painted on the canvas. I am attracted by how the landscape and the
nature and behaviour and actions of water and the ocean can make a painting themselves.
The canvas is a body, changing always. Its scale and weight, texture, volume, mass, surface. They change like

“The painting is becoming indivisible to the water. The painting is water. The ocean is the painting.”

“The painting and the ocean become one. There is no going back after this point in time. The painting is thrown by hand from the edge of the beach where the ocean starts and the land ends. The forces of the universe interact with the painting. What goes up must eventually come down. Gravity effects the painting and it comes down into the ocean. The painting is lost at this point. Lost in the ocean, out of sight. Time goes by. Waves fall. The sun moves in the sky. Light rain falls. To bring the painting back to the landscape, to me, I have to pull the canvas through the water. The weight of the ocean on the painting is enormous, but it moves through the water back to land. Heavier than before because it is drenched in water, the painting feels, smells and looks like the ocean.”

The painting is hung on the rocks and dries in the sun.

Peter says, “I sleep in the damp sea caves made by the recent typhoon. The painting talks to the ocean, to the mysteries of our water world. The sun and the painting engage with one another. Hot sun on the wet canvas. The sun evaporates and dries the water from painting. The canvas looses its water weight and falls to the earth. The water evaporation goes back into the cycle of the water system, up to the sky. New clouds and rain are made from the transformations taking place between the painting and the earth.”

“The journey continues. The painting takes energy and gives energy. Sleeping under the body and form of the canvas. A water shelter that can be moved from one place to another. The painting is a migrant travelling in and along the ocean. I learn from this experience. Lucid visions and ambiguous dreams come to me and I start to paint and draw.”

“A series of beautiful and profound moments start. Chinese ink is mixed with the water from the Pacific Ocean in a quiet and meditative time. A hole is made in the sand, on the edge of the ocean. The canvas is pushed into the sand towards the center of the earth. Into this void where the canvas makes a form, ink and water from the ocean are poured. This is repeated along the surface of the canvas. Like black holes of time and space, the ink begins to make a spiral movement in the wind. The water and the canvas work together, almost in a state of natural symbiosis. The medium of the ink and the ocean water transform. Some of the medium goes into the earth. Some of the medium goes up to the sun. Some of the medium is left as watery and salty trace of action and time on the surface of the wet canvas.”

“The journey deepens.

After two months of this travelling, making, finding, losing, coming, going, etc, the painting prepares to go into the ocean.

But before the painting goes to the bottom of the ocean, the painting stays like this for day and night.

Caught in a suspended animation between our world and the water world of the ocean.

The ocean pulls the painting, the earth holds on.

There is a beautiful poetry in motion between the painting and the ocean. They are as one.

They find their balance in this world. They exchange energies with one another.

The canvas is being painted by the ocean.”

“Night and day, the painting continues.

I can never touch both sides of the painting at the same time when it is stretched out on the ground.

The painting is heavy with the water from the ocean.

The painting becomes lighter after time when the water disappears. It rains.

The paint and ink on the canvas have created an image now.

Abstract, it shows the history of the painting from the water world.

A conversation with the ocean opens a dialogue with the universe.

Beauty is found in the incomplete, the imperfect, the unfinished.

The painting acquires time, takes time, gives time, shows time.”



Movement with the water.

My body and the painting as one in the water world.

Suspended animation, slow breathing, fluid movements, time slows down.

The painting is being painted by the ocean and I am the instrument to make this conversation and relationship occur.

The painting is weightless, it drifts in harmony with the ocean.

I draw these movements of the water as the canvas moves with in the water.

I am able to paint all around the painting, I can be in the painting and over the painting.

My vision of the painting is effected by being in the water. Shapes and forms are blurry.

I see the world as living being suspended in the water.

The ocean paints itself. Some of the ink is taken by the ocean. Lost.

But marks of this voyage and discovery remain, like an abstract watery map of time and space.”

Peter Matthews

Peter Matthews

Peter studied his MA and BA in fine art from the Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2002. He has exhibited his sea drawings internationally since then including at the Drawing Center in New York. He is an avid naturalist.
Peter Matthews

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