Untitled, 1978 signed and dated 'Peter Booth / 1978' verso oil on canvas 92 x 153cm (36 1/4 x 60 1/4in).
PROVENANCE: Purchased from 312 Lennox Street Gallery, Melbourne in June 1987
Dark red skies, the colour of congealed blood, haunt the evenings, and caustic smoke sears each lungful of air. The sound of roaring flames is as persistent as life itself as the earth is torn open and the shadowy, almost deformed, figures of miners labour through the darkness, their eyes glowing red-rimmed from coal-blackened faces. This was the childhood world of the young Peter Booth, growing up in the industrial wasteland of Sheffield in England. The adult Booth is a stocky, muscular man with an inevitable cigar clamped between his teeth. Painfully shy, Booth was the centre of attention with the massive survey exhibition Peter Booth: Human/Nature, at The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Australia in 2003. It was an exhibition that rightfully placed Booth, as National Gallery of Victoria deputy director Frances Lindsay said at the time, as having attained "a central position along with artists such as Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams, who have changed our understanding of the world and our place in it." The title of the show brought into play the three interconnecting elements that drive Booth: humanity, nature, and human nature. "A lot of humans forget we are organic entities, the same as every other creature on the planet, and we've only been here for a short time," Booth said at the time. "I am very pessimistic about the plight of beings. We don't learn much, I mean, we've been wreaking havoc as they did in the Middle Ages. We also have bigger weapons. One thing I am not pessimistic about is the ability of nature to heal itself."1
1 Interview with the author in View from the Booth, The Age, 29 November 2003.