This fascinating documentary observes Howson creating a large orgiastic scene while talking about how he banished the demons in his life
The work of Glaswegian figurative painter Peter Howson, who first rose to prominence in the 80s and early 90s, tends to be crowded with brawny, thick-limbed figures who are often clustered tightly together in large, dynamic compositions. Drawn to depictions of hedonism and working-class culture in his early days, then to disturbing war scenes when he was appointed Britain’s official war artist for Bosnia in 1993, and now religious subjects since he became sober and embraced Christianity, Howson has a many-layered imagination, embracing multiple strata of art history and frames of visual reference. Even his working process, using oils, lays down paint over paint, redrawing and reworking the figures with expressive strokes and shifting light schemes.
That intense process is revealed without fuss or pretension in Charlie Paul’s documentary, which observes Howson as he paints a large orgiastic canvas called Prophecy, featuring dozens of naked figures whirling around a central crucifixion image. There’s something pleasing about the way Paul strips the film-making back to essentials, embracing an aesthetic austerity that forms a harmonious contrast with the giddy clutter and carnival of Howson’s work.
Prophecy review – mesmerising portrait of painter Peter Howson