Gallery director James Stewart said: “Piers Ottey’s new body of paintings reflect and represent a recent trip to California, travelling on the road from Cannery Row to Yosemite, taking in San Francisco on the way.
“It was a stop-over on the way back from New Zealand to the UK in which Piers followed in the footsteps of such West Coast painters as Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha and other Bay Area artists. Ottey wanted to explore the area that produced a lot of the work that he likes by artists that he respects, so he visited places like SFMOMA as well as Crown Print Press, where a lot of the influential West Coast artists and others produced editions.
“Artists are drawn to the West Coast, in a similar way that they are to Cornwall, because of the light, amazing colours and culture. In the case of Yosemite and Sierra Nevada, Ottey wanted to follow in the footsteps of Ansell Adams.
“Any trip to the West Coast for Piers would not be complete without a visit to Monterey, Cannery Row and Pebble Beach. Cannery Row is the novel written by John Steinbeck. Published in 1945, it is set in Monterey during the Great Depression on a street lined with sardine canneries. The actual location Steinbeck was writing about, Ocean View Avenue in Monterey, was later renamed Cannery Row in honour of the book. The literary connection continues with Jack Kerouac and his iconic, Beat, road trip book On the Road in the background and on Pier’s mind during this journey.
“Finally, Pebble Beach, the centre in the US for vintage vehicles represents Piers Ottey’s other passion. Piers restores vintage motorcycles and cars, often building them up from scrap. So a visit to Pebble Beach, on the way to Carmel, around the peninsula from Monterey was a must.
“The highlight each year in August is the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, which started as an add-on to the Pebble Beach road races in 1950, but now has grown to become the world’s premier celebration of the automobile.”
Born in London, Piers trained at Chelsea School of Art in the 1970s and has been painting professionally ever since. He moved to West Sussex in 1980 and set up the Mill Studio Art School in 1994.
“Painting mostly in oils, his subject matter has often been influenced by his travels (often to the Alps and Europe) but he always returns to painting the human form, London and local Sussex landscapes. Although contemporary, there is a knowledge of tradition and the classical in his compositions. Piers cites Coldstream and Uglow as influences and sometimes uses the golden section as well as other geometry to hold a painting together.
“A further influence is Patrick Symons, who brought a rigorous approach to his paintings. Like Symons, Ottey would make numerous preliminary drawings and continually corrected his compositions (changes which can often be seen in the finished work); and like Symons, Ottey’s work can be read on many levels. They both pay close attention to geometry of paintings but also to the specific content.
“Recording places in a state of change or with interesting histories is a favourite theme for Piers.”
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