Peter Walker is well known here, and, while people don't line up to buy them, his works are recognized to be abrasive, offensive and heretical. Abrasive because he redresses the vernacular of prejudice; offensive because he peers too deeply into superficially held loyalties; heretical because the values he challenges have so widely supplanted the realities they are supposed only to symbolize.
Essay written in defence of Sacred Art for Arts Atlantic, Sept. 23, 1984
Peter Walker was born in London, England, in 1945. However, Walker grew up in Canada, living in southern Alberta from 1947-68. He attended the Alberta College of Art from 1963-68, graduating from the Vancouver School of Art in 1969. In 1970 he moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, and now lives and works in Hubbards, Nova Scotia.
Between 1970 and 1980, Walker's work was mainly three-dimensional, in fiberglas. He also designed and built children's playgrounds. In 1980-83, when he was director of St. Michael's Printshop, Walker began to concentrate more on printmaking.
In 1984, the scheduled exhibition of his work, Sacred Art, was forced to cancel at the Longshoremen's Protective Union (LSPU) Hall in St. John's. Various church and community authorities deemed Walker's irreverent depictions of holy figures unsuitable for public viewing, especially during the time of Pope John Paul II's visit to Newfoundland.
It is unclear whether the authorities whose protests caused the cancellation ever actually saw the art in question. It is ironic that the issues Walker dealt with in Sacred Art, primarily those of censorship, repressed sexuality and the materialistic/conservative impetus in Western society, were active in preventing the exhibition from opening to the public.
In 1985, Walker was one of 11 artists commissioned under the Art Procurement Program to construct a sculptural work for the new extension of the provincial government's Confederation Building. Walker's piece is made of fiberglas and steel mounted in concrete, and represents, according to Walker, effects of the wind as it traps things, such as plastic bags, in fences.
In 1996, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery organized an exhibition of three bodies of work that Walker had completed since 1993. The three groups of paintings, Local Monuments, Dueling Dickheads and The Innocents examined the issue of unreconstructed masculinity.
Walker is represented in a variety of private and public collections including the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's Permanent Collection. He presently works in sculpture, photography, drawing and lithography.