I have a print of one of Peter Shillito’s paintings in my front room. It’s a bright, complex, abstract design that people often comment on, and the colours in particular (strong blues, greens, purple) are very beautiful. Peter is a genuine mystic, whose poems and artwork form a whole – two different ways of pointing toward the same truth.
His exhibition ‘Lasting Essence’ is currently showing at the Arch Café, (just off Dortmund Square, round the corner from the St. John’s Centre). As well as about 20 of his paintings, there is a book of poetry with the same title, which has images of some of the paintings in it. It’s a lovely little collection. The title poem ‘written soon after a mental illness had torn my world apart’, sets the tone:
A small tree may grow
Its branches reaching out
like the arms of a child
Touching a golden sun
Its leaves whisper
and flutter free
Like a dove on a wing,
out into Eternity.
The theme of finding light out of mental darkness, and discovering that ‘breakdown’ can lead to ‘breaking through’, is a theme that runs through Peter’s writing. It made me think of another English poet/painter mystic, William Blake:
“What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy”
Peter is a member of the Living Artists Movement, the group Ushawant Kaur began, which printed his book. He’s also a regular member of the Scattered Leaves group, where practising artists and writers share their work every first Tuesday evening at the Civic Hall. The Lasting Essence exhibition will run until the 18th of August.