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Peter Macdonald: Codecs

October 15, 2010

Codecs, an exhibition of the work of Peter Macdonald, opened last night at Sims Reed Gallery in Mayfair in partnership with Edel Assanti.

Codecs is an exhibition of 23 of Macdonald’s most recent drawings in ink. Made to resemble the mass-produced imagery of cameras and satellites, yet precisely rendered by Macdonald’s own hand, the works in Codecs address the various media we use to comprehend our daily existence and to map our surroundings.

Vibrancy of colour combined with meticulous detail gives Macdonald’s work a mesmerising and pulsating effect. Meanwhile, their narratives remain ambiguous and open to the viewer’s interpretation. Sims Reed gallerist Lyndsey Ingram notes that they address ‘centres of belief and means of communication, but with a slightly sinister, Cold War feeling.’

She observes that their ambiguity is due to the barrier of lines that make up each drawing’s surface:

‘These criss-crossed lines of interference and ‘noise’ come in between the viewer and the landscape. This reinforces the idea of information travelling back and forth, almost like radio waves, things that we can’t see but we know are there. They prevent us from getting too far into the pictures; we really have to question our relationship to them.’

Macdonald’s works show the way in which imperceptible forces, particularly sound, shape our interpretations of the world; he makes visible the non-visual. Ingram states that Macdonald’s technique of ‘making visible’ has a conceptual underpinning:

‘All of the overlaid lines are drawn with a stave-writer, a special pen with five nibs that musicians use to write staves. That’s another very interesting part of the work, because the stave-writer is a mechanical device used to create the work but it’s tied conceptually with the idea of physically depicting sound. He literally draws with a musician’s tool.’

Macdonald’s drawings impart visions to the viewer that are at once semantically open and, by way of their technique, incredibly specific. ‘The fluctuation between image and noise, readability and illegibility is something I see as a metaphor for learning,’ says Macdonald. These works imply that knowledge and clarity, and information and understanding, are far from synonymous.


Peter Macdonald studied Fine Art at the University of Newcastle. He lives and works in London.

Codecs runs until 10th November at Sims Reed Gallery, The Economist Building, 30 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AU.




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