Art from the Ocean

Art from the Ocean

Peter Matthews is an artist who immerses themselves into their subjects. Paintings and drawings of the ocean become one with it, as they are created within or around the water. This haptic feedback creates free-flowing pieces that replicate the ocean’s movement, while also being created by the thing itself. 


Using materials such as earth and water, along with the more conventional artists materials, allows Peter’s work to represent the ocean in an intriguing way. After a near-death experience while surfing in 2007, he has had a fascination with the ocean. Peter sees surfing as a state of meditation, where you stop thinking for a moment in time. He likens this to art. By doing both activities parallelly he is able to be in a spiritual state. Now he travels around the world, creating his pieces while in different oceans for hours, even days. His work isn’t made to be something aesthetically visual. Instead, it is all about the experience of creating that work, making each piece extremely personal. But this also allows others to experience the feeling he felt while making the piece, bringing them closer to the ocean.


Each piece is made within the environment. He carries a large wooden board into the ocean, while his tools are kept in a hat that bobs beside him. His process of mark making occurs as his body moves with the waves. Then when an interaction with nature happens, such as natural materials coming onto the paper, he lets nature contribute to the piece. He also leaves them in the ocean or on the beach, allowing nature to continue the work. Often the paper may come off the board and sink to the ocean floor. Here it could be battered or stained, but Peter is happy to just witness the forces of nature. Sometimes the pieces may even feature writing. This comes as an attempt to record that moment and what is happening. It is also a form of documentation, such as the ocean he is currently in. As it is an organic process, the water may eventually wash this away, leaving faint letters and shapes. 


Peter lives an almost nomadic life. Exploring the best places to create his art. While in a location he may stay there for a number of days, sleeping on the beach and heading back out to the ocean in the morning. Here he lives with his ongoing work, even using them for warmth. Becoming one with the piece. Recently he spent weeks sewing canvas paintings together on a rock in Cornwall, each from a different ocean, the Atlantic and the Pacific. 

Some of his work has even been destroyed or lost. It is very common that the tide takes some of the pieces, meaning that they are lost to the ocean. But Peter sees this as part of the process, and although these won’t necessarily be seen by others, it doesn’t make the piece any less important. While working in Cornwall, Peter buried some paintings to allow the earth to create its mark. But was then unable to retrieve them as a mud landslide buried them. 

Peter Matthews