I Stole From Peter Colbert | by Marina May Raike
SITTING ON THE STOOL OF ONE GIANT is not quite the same as standing on the shoulders of many, but sit I did. Oh, and you can add theft to that as well. For this is the story of how I stole a chair from my hero, Peter Colbert at The Artist Project, a four-day art fair in Toronto.
Peter Colbert has produced a number of distinct series over the course of his career. I'm writing exclusively about his highly abstracted landscapes, because those are the ones I love. Currently I'm also painting landscapes, which prompted me to recall Peter and the events of February 2017.
I first encountered Colbert’s work through Gordon Harrison Gallery in Ottawa. I found his economy of form a refreshing break from the other landscapes on display. When I received a beautifully reproduced invitation to his solo show, I kept it by my bedside like an inspirational alarm clock.
The image was of a cave in the half-light of late dawn or early dusk with a shimmer on the water. You could make everything out perfectly. The treatment would've been photographic - had there been some sort of lens that reduced the whole geometric equation down to its simplest forms. Anyone who’s read The Alchemist, will understand when I say that Peter Colbert is the Paulo Coelho of contemporary Canadian landscape painters.
The scene of the crime.
I was showing along with Gordon Harrison, Peter Colbert and approximately 800 other artists at the epic four day event. For me, the setup and takedown are the most difficult parts of the job. Talking to over five thousand people is mostly easy. I had some great moments, like the woman who said, “I'm colourblind, but I SEE COLOUR in your paintings.” Hearing that ‘blue’ me away!
Back to my confession: I pay by weight when shipping my artwork, so I try to streamline. No extras. But no chair? What was I thinking? By the middle of day two, I'm at my booth, feet aching, knees and hamstrings weary, and I notice a shiny, white, high legged, simple but futuristic, and very attractive chair resting against a concrete wall. It's perfect, I think. It's not near any display, and it's been there for a day and a half. I figure it must be 'available’, so I borrow it.
Aah, comfort and style. After a few hours of sweet relief, I saw an expressionless man stride over with an air of purpose. It was Peter Colbert, whom I'd seen, but never actually met before. In amazingly few words, he communicated that his chair had gone missing and was that one mine? and if not, he's very relieved to find it, and is taking it now.
I explained my rationale, whilst hoping I hadn't upset one of my idols. But I quickly got the impression that, like his painterly style, extra details were unnecessary. No hard feelings. I told him that I admire his landscapes, but I'm not sure if he knows just how much I do. I wonder if he conflated the compliment with my apology and considered it some sort of conciliatory flattery. It's another unnecessary detail that I'll never know.
Marina (Malvada) May Raike