Pete Marchetto - (Auto)biography
Born in London, England, in 1959, I had the kind of middle-class upbringing in the stockbroker belt of Britain's capital that seemed likely to set my course for life. For a while, all went according to plan. Admiring of an uncle who had been an engineer on the Apollo space program, I dutifully enrolled at Sheffield University to study sciences.
Up to this time, art and I had had a love-hate relationship. A pragmatic child, I'd never much seen the point of it, though that didn't stop me hiding away in my bedroom for long hours writing stories and experimenting with drawing parabolas and other geometric designs. Now, at University, one too many equations drove me out of academe. I dropped out, and became a born-again artist.
The arts being notoriously difficult as a path in life unless one has a liking for stale bread and cold attics, I decided to be ambitious. I was going to fail at everything. In the years that followed, I was an actor in a small touring theatre company; experimented with electronic music; wrote for the British national music press; wrote novels and short stories; took up photography; managed a band; became a political activist on behalf of the arts; and discovered that, thanks to computers, the designs I used to produce as a child could be taken to a whole new level.
As if that wasn't enough, I travelled a great deal visiting some twenty to thirty countries, before – fifteen years ago – I finally got stuck in the People's Republic of China.
For now, at least, Guilin in the province of Guangxi with its magnificent karst scenery is my home, along with my wife, Li Meimei, and our two cats, Mengmeng and Sparkle.
Pete Marchetto – Artist's Statement
While resident in Japan in the late 1990s, I became intrigued by ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. In its often simple presentation of colour and form I sensed an aesthetic at work, but could not understand what I found so appealing. I became, briefly, a student and practitioner of the art, (pleasing my sensei more than I expected with my ham-fisted attempts), and came to understand the importance of proportion and standard motifs in any particular arrangement. The hidden aesthetic proved to be mathematical. I should not have been surprised. I had myself, after all, spent many happy hours in my childhood creating geometrical imagery with nothing more than a ruler and a few felt-tip pens.
Ah! Maths. There are few amongst us who do anything other than wince at the thought of it, and I speak as one who winces. I have two cats. I count them out in the evening, count them in again in the morning, and that's about my limit. Nonetheless, there is something in our minds that responds to the mathematical, a fact recognised as far back as the ancient Egyptians who were the first to find the Golden Ratio and to recognise within it not only a wealth of purely mathematical applications, but also an underlying aesthetic in the forms it inspired.
However much we may consciously deplore mathematics, it seems – subconsciously – we are very susceptible to its charms.
Today, those charms may be revealed as never before through the use of computers. Through it, we have become familiar with how chaos theory and fractals, repetition and transformation present the possibility of a new aesthetic, and how the works produced so exquisitely emulate things with which we are familiar in nature such as fern leaves and trees, the very aesthetic of nature herself.
Much as a sculptor may find within a slab of rock the potential of a form which must be chiselled from it to be revealed, so the computer graphic artist must find within the generation of mathematical forms their own inherent beauty. From all-too-frequent blobs and amorphous noise, the artist must find the parameters that shape an alluring image in often seemingly whimsical and random shapes and textures which are, in actuality, mathematically precise. Just as the practitioner of ikebana works with mathematics and plants to bring about an evocation of nature as if by pure accident, so too the computer graphic artist as he or she develops his or her own aesthetic from that which is presented to him in the flowering of a CPU. Through small adjustments to how such forms are generated, the artist chisels out something reflective of his or her own personality, and ideals of beauty.
It is in this fine tuning that another opportunity has presented itself to me as an artist, and that is in the creation of works that resonate with one another. Each of the works presented here is just one example of a range of possible images sharing the same underlying theme. This enables me to create 'series' of works, each of them distinct in what it offers, but evocative of one another. This is of particular value when seeking resonance between different spaces. Thus an observer may wander from room to room discovering something new in differing images while the underlying theme is retained in its echoing.
My own tendency is towards the purely abstract, an avoidance of too-blatant repetition within any work. Though spirals and symmetries exist in my work – they are, at times, too glorious to be resisted – my preference is for a break from the too obvious, to permit a work to evoke a response from the viewer in the subconscious recognition of evolutionary forms. That which blares is soon forgotten. That which is veiled captivates, and rewards further appreciation. My desire is for my audience to return to my work again and again to find something new previously hidden from them, things it is very likely even I, as the artist, have not noticed. Art is at its best when the viewer completes the process, imprinting upon a work his or her own interpretation of the aesthetic to please himself or herself through its personalisation and further discovery.
In my work, I have tried to avoid the 'science-fiction' feel of exploding galaxies and alien landscapes which have become all-too common. My interest, rather, is more in the spirit of the abstract artist of the early- to mid-20th century in both colour and form. It is inevitable that some of the work evokes nature and, as with spirals and reflections, these are sometimes too good to miss. However, in my progress as an artist, I have come to increasingly appreciate the more painterly approach to abstraction, stripped of associativity, existing in itself, as itself, for itself.
There now! The artist as pretentious rambler and there really is nothing new under the sun, but that's words for you – a thousand to the picture.
Please don't look for me in my works. They're not about me now, I'm done.
Look for yourself.