Friday, 7 May 2010

Peter Coviello

I went to the opening of a retrospective show at St. Dogmaels Gallery near Cardigan on May Day. The show features the work of my friend Peter Coviello who died in 2006. Peter was born in 1930 and would have been 80 this year; I only knew him for the last four or so years of his life. He did have a pretty full and wild time however, every inch an artist he led a 'complicated' and convoluted life.

He began his artistic career at Guildford School of Art with a traditional art school training for the times, and his own work was in the same mould in his early career. In the 1950's, exposure to the American Abstract Expressionists via Mark Rothko changed his perspective on painting overnight and his work began to explore the themes and ideas he was being exposed to. He was recognised fairly quickly and his work was bought for collections such as the Tate and Peter Styvesant. In 1960, Peter was curated as part of the exhibition Situation, which took place at the RBA (Royal Society of British Artists) Galleries, London.

His personal circumstances were to knock him into a different discipline for a while, as a potter he lived in Canada and, with his usual exemplary skill, he established himself to great accomplishment in that area for 10 years. When he came back to the UK, after a time in London, he came to live in west Wales having returned to painting. The next couple of decades saw him moving between London and Wales before he came to Rhos in Ceredigion with his then partner, Nura and stayed until his death.

Peter suffered with angina and had three heart bypass operations starting in his 40's, he was ill when I met him and he was candid about the fact that he would not be around for to much longer. I met him at the opening of a big solo show of paintings I put on at Carmarthen Library in 2002, we hit it off immediately and later that year we shared a show at the Guildhall in Cardigan. Various other smaller shows followed. He lived across the hills from me and we saw eye to eye. He was a mentor in some ways - wise, funny, charismatic and deeply involved with his art, but he was so alive and open to the world, I hope I was able to share some of my own experience and ideas with him too. It adds an amazing depth to a friendship when you are under no illusion that your time is limited from the start.

His work is many, many layered; it deals with the mysterious, the scientific, the religious, the sensual, the symbolic. He was latterly very interested in quantum physics and we had many long discussions about what that might mean for an artist. I miss him very much.

The show has been organised by artist and art historian Peter Rossiter who, along with many other artists in the Cardigan area, was similarly effected by Peter's friendship. It continues at St. Dogmaels' Gallery for about two months.


  1. I really enjoyed this article. Peter was my brother-in-law during much of the time he lived in Canada. Yes, he was everything you say (and as self-centred as Gauguin) but very charismatic and our family loved him dearly. I own several Coviello paintings -- he did landscapes while in Canada; and although I know he didn't think as much of these as of his abstracts, they are sublime.

    It is nice to know his work is still appreciated.

  2. Thanks so much for commenting! I was so fond of Peter, and I'm glad to hear that you were too - I have a few Coviello's on my wall too and I love them. I miss the old rascal!

  3. Nice thoughtful article about my uncle..... Here's a link to one you haven't seen before. Peter, his wife T, the dog and I went to Alqonquin where Peter say down for about 10 minutes and dashed this off. Being Peter, he charged me an arm and a leg for it. Lovely man, my favourite uncle.


Thanks for taking the time to read my join in the conversation...