ART REFUGE: Peter sees his studio as his private refuge.
ART REFUGE: Peter sees his studio as his private refuge.

A Lismore art legend

FOR renowned North Coast artist Peter Powditch his studio is a refuge.

"I make it as user unfriendly as I can by ensuring there isn't a surface for anyone else to sit on," he said. "I'm a piler-upper not a thrower-outer - it's a deliberate way of making the studio very private."

With an illustrious track record as a visual artist and arts educator Powditch has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas with his work represented in Australian National Gallery.

His 1971 painting Sprint II is featuring in the Gold Coast City Gallery exhibition, Sexualising the City, until December 2.

Another work in the series Sun Torso 11 is in the permanent collection of the Lismore Regional Gallery.

Throughout his work and teaching he has always pushed for the use of the Australian vernacular and Sprint II draws part of its inspiration from Aussie beach culture.

"As a teacher I wanted to push Australian content," he said.

"I might run a class just on drawing prawns, double decker-prawns or prawn sandwiches."

Powditch was also one of the first to take an interest in pub paintings, those beer company posters from the '50s and '60s full of bronzed Aussies surfing and sunbathing.

"I just wanted people to cherish them and recognise them as part of our culture," he said.

He describes himself as a confirmed smoker and suffers from emphysema.

In 2009 a portrait of Powditch by his son James titled Dead Man Smoking was hung in the 2009 Archibald Prize.

"It upset a lot of my Sydney friends as they thought I was dying," he said.

"James was angry at me at the time because of my smoking.

"It was a very brave painting and I thought it should have won."

But he continues to smoke, finding it helps his decision making process when working.

Powditch studied at the National Art School at East Sydney Tech, enrolling on the same day in 1962 as Martin Sharp. He credits the sculptor Lyndon Dadswell as his most influential teacher and he also studied privately with John Olsen.

"Olsen had just come back from Spain and it was so exciting," he said.

Over the years Powditch has taught at the National Art School, Sydney College of the Arts and the Sydney Graphics School.

"I often preferred not to look at a student's painting but to talk about ideas," he said.

"I believe in the person not the work."

However Powditch has not worked in his own studio seriously for the last 12 months. But despite the layoff, the urge to create is always there.

"I've worked for 52 years flat out with only one year off when I was in New York," he said.

"My wife says there is almost no choice in this, I am dragged along by a kind of obsessiveness. I've always been pulled along by needs and I think a lot of creative people are like this."

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