Gavin Fry, Director Newcastle Regional Museum (from 2005 Sydney catalogue)

Peter Neilson is a painter of works both familiar and unfathomable, in which thirty years of stored images, impressions and technical skills have come face to face with the solitary life of the studio painter.

The result is a remarkable series of paintings quite unlike any seen in Australia today. He creates a tapestry of incident and drama that echoes the experience of so many in the twenty-first century - a world in which we suffer from too much information, too much imagery and not enough knowledge.

Peter Neilson's path to his current work is as complex and varied as the images he portrays. Art school trained in the 1960s, he held one highly successful exhibition before he left the mainstream art world to work in commercial television. As a scenic artist and set painter be turned his hand to every format and concept in the make-believe word of the small screen, but the lessons he learned served him well when he returned to the realm of 'high art', Neilson has developed an individual style built on his years of scenic work, combined with powerful drawing and the capacity to render surface and light surely and confidently. Despite their complexity, these works are less the result of meticulous planning than a narrative emanating from one Individual character or incident, twisting and turning opportunistically across the canvas, opening spaces then closing them. Solid surface and reassuring architecture give way to the plunging abyss; the transparent becomes reflective and the gloom is seared by a raking spotlight. The visual conventions are photographic and filmic light sources are always artificial in the television studio. The techniques of the film director and editor are played out across the canvas - the freeze frame, the rake, the pan, the travelling shot and extreme closeup. Many of the canvases are scaled to 'widescreen' proportions rather than

those normally favoured by easel painters. There is a boundless parade of tough male characters, while their elegant companions have a glamour which belies the evil lurking behind the half-drawn curtains and the executive desk. Lights swing on dangerous cords, drinks are spilt and secrets muttered behind cupped hands. The rooms which resolve and dissolve around the desperate players are the public spaces of office buildings and hotel foyers, cool, uninviting and Impersonal. The viewer has moments of recognition and remembrance, like trying to describe a film seen long ago or a television show glimpsed while channel surfing. The images and characters are familiar yet nothing is specific. The narratives are dense and impenetrable as a foreign film without subtitles, These images are a matrix of subplots where the viewer fills in the story me. It s perhaps not mere coincidence that Neilson's wife Rose s a skilled writer of cryptic crosswords, the linguistic equivalent of these enigmatic illustrations. As in a cryptic crossword, Peter Nelson provides the action and the clues, but it is up to the viewer to find their meaning. These complex arrangements succeed because of the artist's virtuosity and command of his technique both as a painter and a draftsman. Passages of scene setting are as lyrical as a Streeton, while a subtle drag of a dry brush has the elegance of a Wyeth or a Sargent.

These are works that bear the closest scrutiny. Stand across a room and they are a rich tapestry of Illusion and invention, stand a foot away and they are exemplars of the painter's craft. But it is not just on the 'big screen' that Neilson's work enchants us. Small works and especially his elegant portrait studies show the depth of his vision and command of his craft. A glance at the catalogue suggests an exhibiting career of a decade, but the works are informed by a lifetime of watching and understanding both the real and illusionary hemispheres of our modern word.