Royal reception for masters student
When fine art student Peter Tilley was introduced to Crown Princess Mary at the first Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Denmark in June 2009, he was delighted to find that she knew all about his work. "I had a wonderful discussion about my work with her. She liked it and it was a huge high for me," Tilley said.
After a 30-year career as a ceramicist and sculptor, Tilley decided to do a Master of Philosophy (Fine Art) because his work had reached the stage where he needed to do "some really serious research". He said he wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the ancient Egyptian funerary culture that influenced his work. "I want to refine the objects and symbolism that I am working with so people can understand my sculptures better."
His program of study also allowed him to use the University’s studio space and foundry he needed to develop new sculptures of metal and wood pieces.
His figurative sculptures often show an androgynous figure, with a suitcase, standing in or near a doorway. Sometimes the person contemplates a staircase at the top of which a boat floats in space. At other times, the figure stands under a cloud or seems lost in the woods. The pieces have titles like ‘Waiting for wisdom’, ‘Seize the day’ and ‘Dreaming and surviving’.
"A lot of my work is about embarking on a journey or new adventure and seeking an answer," Tilley explained. The doorway is inspired by the false door, a recess in Egyptian tombs through which the spirit of the dead accessed the living world.
For most of his career, Tilley worked as a ceramicist, making seemingly simple vessels that "went beyond the everyday". Some of his containers were based on canopic jars, which held mummified Egyptian body parts.
Then about six years ago, Tilley started making sculptures to express the feelings he had after his marriage ended. Appropriately, a recent exhibition of his was entitled ‘Midway along the path of life’.
He has had solo exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne and his work has been placed in prime sites at Sculpture by the Sea exhibitions in Australia.
Doing his Masters has given Tilley fresh inspiration. He sees his research as a personal means to an end. "It is not about employment or status. It is about informing my work and I should have done it years ago."