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Image of Plainsong by Peter Hide
Peter Hide, Plainsong. Photo © Jesus College Cambridge

Peter Hide

Work exhibited: Plainsong.

Peter Hide, although born in Surrey, has been Professor of Sculpture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton for the last 35 years. His move from Britain to Canada in the late 1970s facilitated the development of an individual style which depended partly on a self conscious disaffiliation from the work of Sir Anthony Caro, with whom he had studied at St Martin’s School of Art.

Striking off in a new direction was a risky undertaking, involving more than a little separation anxiety: "the problem is," Hide has commented, "if you do that, you move away from extremely fertile territory."

Hide’s own territory is now clearly distinct from Caro’s, with a tendency towards monolithic concentration, as opposed to the more speculative assemblages characteristic of the older artist. Plainsong (2000) is typical of Hide’s interest in the monumental use of steel, and represents the elaboration of an idea derived from a public commission to install a large outdoor sculpture in front of a theatre in Edmonton.

Decisively abstract, Plainsong nevertheless retains echoes of the architectural arrangements of a conventional theatre, with its collocation of the basic elements of stage, proscenium arch and auditorium, all within the same framework. At the same time, the title indicates a different medium for reflection on the artistic unity of the work, since plainsong is that conspicuously unadorned, unaccompanied form of chant employed in early medieval church music, characterised by melodic simplicity, without variation. Hide’s sculpture is confidently synaesthetic, while its primary focus is on formal restraint.

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