San Francisco-based visual artist Peter Combe creates three-dimensional artworks using household paint swatches as his prime matter, usually hand-punched into small disks. He then fits these disks into bevel-cut grooves on a specially prepared archival material in order to create his pieces, ranging from abstract pattern-based colour compositions to realistic portraits of people. Apart from producing portraits commissioned by collectors, Combe also likes to work with images found on social media, especially Instagram. What he finds interesting in working with these images is the contrast between the fleeting, impermanent nature of social media platforms and the more fixed and enduring nature of his artworks, which as he says achieves a sense of ''captured history,'' much like a vintage photograph. With this idea also present in Michael Zavros’ photorealistic paintings, it’s no coincidence that we found him and Combe speaking to each other on Instagram!
In order to create these portraits, Peter Combe works very quickly, thinking of tones rather than colours. For this reason he has organised his palette of over 1,100 colours into groupings based on tonal increments and light-reflecting values, whereby he places the colour disks on the ‘canvas’ with the aid of a vintage operating-theatre lamp. In some of the works, the colour chips are placed obliquely on the ‘canvas’ with their coloured side facing away from the viewer, making the colour not directly visible but faintly reflected on the backside of the chips. This in turn produces a very particular trick of the eye, where colours from the entire spectrum somehow merge, creating homogenous tonal surfaces that, from a specific angle, give rise to a moment where ''colour simply occupies space,'' as the artist explains – a visual effect that is almost impossible to capture by photo or video, and which changes depending on the position of the viewer in front of the work.
Upcoming exhibitions with works by Peter Combe:
Pentimenti Gallery, 145 North Second Street, Philadelphia, PA >>> October 3 to November 1, 2014.
Lanoue Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., No. 31 Boston, MA >>> October 3 to November 1, 2014.