A ki­netic artist

Peter Wilkins of Clarke’s Beach pre­pares for next project

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

Sit­ting at a ta­ble in his gar­den in Clarke’s Beach, Peter Wilkins looks around. Tak­ing in the sights and sounds, he is ob­vi­ously savour­ing his sur­round­ings.

“ The next body of work I’m go­ing to start in Septem­ber is Por­traits of Cana­dian Mu­si­cians,” he says. “From rock bands to pop stars, I will try and en­cap­su­late the va­ri­ety and great­ness of Cana­dian mu­sic.”

This ac­com­plished and highly ac­claimed artist is in his el­e­ment. The 42-year-old is bask­ing in the ac­co­lades that have been show­ered on his work in re­cent years.

But there was a time when Wilkins won­dered if an artis­tic ca­reer would even ma­te­ri­al­ize for him.

Born in London, Eng­land, Wilkins grew up in Le­ices­ter­shire.

“I had a pretty idyl­lic child­hood ex­is­tence,” he said.

Af­ter high school, he de­cided to be­come a writer. To pur­sue his am­bi­tion, he trav­elled to Prague, in the Czech Re­pub­lic. “ That’s a great place to write,” he said. It was also a great place to meet a wife. A re­la­tion­ship de­vel­oped be­tween Wilkins and Michelle Mahoney, a trav­el­ling New­found­lan­der. As they say, the rest is his­tory. The duo ex­changed nup­tials. Mov­ing to the prov­ince in 1998, they set­tled in Michelle’s home­town, Clarke’s Beach. To­day, they are the proud par­ents of four daugh­ters — Amara, eight, Phoebe, 11, Xan­the, 13 and 14-year-old Zoe.

In his early 30s, Wilkins came to the re­al­iza­tion that his nat­u­ral tal­ent lay not with writ­ing, but else­where. He dab­bled in art.

“I al­ways re­turned to it, so I fi­nally made the de­ci­sion to go in that di­rec­tion,” he com­mented. “I said to my­self, ‘Al­right, I’m just go­ing to do art.’”

He has never re­gret­ted his life-chang­ing de­ci­sion.

Wilkins’ ap­proach to art can best be de­scribed as lens-based.

“Ev­ery­thing I do comes from ei­ther a still cam­era or a video cam­era,” he ex­plained. “I think it’s al­ways very im­por­tant to ex­pand the bound­aries of art. I ask, ‘How can I go a lit­tle bit fur­ther?’” Wilkins aims to get in­side his sub­jects. “My por­traits are much more try­ing to get the real per­son, to get a sense of who they are, where they go and what they’ve done with their lives; their as­pi­ra­tions and great­est mo­ments. Over the process of a por­trait, they can re­flect on the best of times and the worst of times. I play with pho­to­graphs in ways peo­ple haven’t,” he said.

While he does some still pho­tog­ra­phy work, Wilkins spe­cial­ized in cre­at­ing video por­traits.

He is per­haps best known for his ki­netic por­traits of 12 Cana­dian writ­ers. This project crit­i­cally en­gages such writ­ers as Mar­garet At­wood, Dou­glas Cou­p­land and Jane Uruqhart.

Dr. Jen­nifer Dyer, hu­man­i­ties grad­u­ate of­fi­cer, Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity, St. John’s, de­scribed Wilkins’ dig­i­tal video in­stal­la­tion as “sim­ple and di­rect … com­plex and qui­etly en­gag­ing.”

For Wilkins, the word “ ki­netic” im­plies move­ment.

“A still pho­to­graph cap­tures only one in­stant. But hav­ing video por­traits is a slightly new step,” he said.

The Por­trait Gallery of Canada pur­chased Wilkins’ en­tire suite of 12 Cana­dian Writ­ers in 2008.

His se­ries of art­works in­clude the Colour of Wine, which cap­tures the depth and tonal shifts of sev­eral va­ri­eties of well-known wines.

Wilkins also served as the first artist-in­res­i­dence at Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity.

There seems to be no end to the projects Wilkins un­der­takes. He per­son­i­fies ki­netic en­ergy him­self. He is the epit­ome of en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm, burst­ing with ideas for in­no­va­tive projects.

As for the fu­ture, his Por­traits of Cana­dian Mu­si­cians project is cur­rently in process.

First, he com­piled a lengthy list of mu­si­cians “in all gen­res wor­thy and great,” Wilkins com­mented. The dif­fi­cult part will be to nar­row down the list to 20. He will then con­tact the mu­si­cians and ask them to sit for their ki­netic por­traits.

“I’m im­mensely for­tu­nate to be here,” Wilkins said. “It’s a bril­liant place to live and bring up a fam­ily. You have space and fresh air. I think it’s ab­so­lutely idyl­lic.”

Which is ex­actly how he de­scribed his home­town in Eng­land.

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