Peter Burega, in his newest series, has begun to re-discover and explore the landscape. His works are beautiful missives of oil on panel. Mercurial by nature and obsessed with process, he turns out increasingly thoughtful, wildly expressive, and ultimately sophisticated paintings. “Although my work is abstract, it develops from my experience and interaction with the land. Moments taken from daily life, dreams, experiences, and visual impressions. Studies of my environment – light, shadow, reflection – conspire to inform my work.”
While he still experiments with the contradictions of geometry and the abstract landscape, a new kind of discovery has occurred in his work. It reflects the harmony and conflict that are found in the play of light on water or in the marching of cloud shadows along a mesa: infusing a new level of subtlety in his work. There is a message among the Sioux Indians that gives perspective to Burega’s paintings. It influences how he approaches both his life and work: ‘I would live where the sky is open, where the fences are not, and where the spirit walks the earth.”
As in his past work, Burega’s goal is that every individual take their own message from his paintings. “Although I would like the viewer to experience the volume of motion and light that occurs in a piece, I still strive to have the them bring their own interpretation to the stories I tell about the places I have been,” explains Burega.
Possessed of an admittedly “percussive” brain, Burega admits to having had an unusual development as an artist. He is self-taught. While living in Los Angeles working as an attorney Burega started painting after experiencing Mexican painter Victor Hugo Zayas’ work. Obsessed with the notions of abstract landscape and Zayas’ interpretation of abstract expressionism Burega started on his path. He started out working on masonite, then canvas, followed by paper and door-skin. Finally, he tried board.
Burega’s work possesses both a rigidity coupled with a supple, lushness of surface. He paints only with trowels, scrapers and knives. He seldom picks up a paintbrush except to finish or glaze a surface. Painting with oils and many layers of varnish, his first layers of under-painting serve to cure the. While layering, the composition of his work emerges. Both the removal and addition of layers serve to give Burega’s work a certain luminosity. This tends to bring an additional burnished element to the work. He also scores his panels with a knife whish allows for the juxtaposition of color fields and compositional elements. This methodology also provides an opportunity for Burega to change perspective within a single piece.
“Subconsciously, you know, there’s stuff going on behind the scenes, Burega reveals. “Although I tend to know what’s back there—sometimes I don’t remember and this leads to my being surprised when I remove layers. Somehow my process has developed a plan of which I am not always aware.”
Approaching each painting as a kind of geometrical equation to be solved or played with, Burega constructs an asymmetric grid on which to begin painting. This grid is as important to him as his subject matter.
Recently, while spending time in the lush, dense climes of the British Virgin Islands, Burega’s work underwent a dramatic change in palette and light. “In the Caribbean, light flickers differently than anywhere else on earth and that affected my changing perspectives.”
Hoping to give people a peek into how it is he sees the world, and how he thinks—and how he processes what he sees—Burega has left behind the world of beauty and gone inside his head. “I have a very pleasing palette but that’s not what drives me,” says Burega. “My work is much more thoughtful. I used to be extremely visceral. I’m more focused now—it’s more me. I’m very right brain left brain: I am able to maintain a contradictory organization: completely letting go while functioning within a planned process.”