Peter Sylveire


Peter Sylveire was born in 1945 of French/Russian parents. He studied painting at the Slade School of Art and film at the London Film School, graduating in 1968. He became politically active in the Workers Revolutionary Party and worked as a typographer for the Workers Press. In 1976, he was employed by the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) to co-direct a political documentary, Namibia Armed. From 1974-76, he served as secretary of the Independent Film-makers Association (IFA). In 1978, he returned to painting and showed in the 1979 Arts Council funded exhibition Narrative Painting which toured the UK, ending at the ICA in London. The following year he had a solo show at the Edward Totah Gallery titled What Next. He exhibited in the Whitechapel Open in 1981 and in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1982. Sylveire travelled to Mexico, America, Rome and to Paris where in 1983 he exhibited at the 2eme Convergence de Jeune expression in Le Grand Palais. He has lectured on art at various colleges in the UK, including West Surrey College of Art & Design, London Metropolitan University, Newcastle University and also at the Jan Van Eyk Academie in Maastricht, Holland.

In 1985, Sylveire founded the Young Unknowns Gallery and ran it as an art work until 1992. It became famous for its Open Submission Theme Shows such as Money, which launched the career of American artist JSG Boggs, and Animal, which featured the work Foetus Earrings made by sculptor Rick Gibson. This led to Sylveire being tried at the Old Bailey and convicted of 'outraging public decency' in 1989. In 1991, as a gesture 'in honour of art over its authors', aimed at shifting the focus of art appreciation away from the 'who' to the 'what', the gallery devoted its final year to an anonymous exhibition. Sylveire exhibited his own works under these conditions. The Young Unknowns enjoyed regular funding from Time Out

Sylveire writes of his series of collage works: 'Each of my collages is made of two postcards. Ordinarily collage consists of images stuck on top of one another. Using the technique of marquetry, my own are integrated to sit on the same level, like pieces in a puzzle. Juxtaposing incongruous images in some way frees them of their circumstance and authorship and displays them in a fresh light. Creating original works using other people's material and putting them in an art gallery without falling foul of any copyright law, inspires the incredible notion that other people's "flowers" are in some way, all of ours.

'If collage is firstly a child's game, reproductions are its toys. In adult hands the ludicrous liberty the activity affords is refined by experience, so its playfulness takes on a serious edge - that's what draws me to it. Practically everything on earth, including the entirety of its culture, even the planet itself pictured from space, is reproduced on a postcard. So at little cost, the world exists to hand for the collagist to dis-assemble at will. It's a card game of sorts, tailor-made for iconoclasts, requiring as much luck as skill. My conscious mind could never invent the uncanny combinations as occur. Only after their pairing do I discover why it is they look "made for one another". Titles confirm that visual compatibility. I write these on the backs along with the initials PS (which may stand for Pop Surrealism).' magazine. Sylveire has works in the private collections of fellow artists such as David Hockney and Jeff Wall.