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Chromatic Chronicles: Exploring Societal and Political Atmospheres Through Peter Wiseman's Lens

Joana Alarcão

Step into the vivid world of Peter Wiseman's Chromatic Chronicles, where colors become a powerful language dissecting societal and political themes. Through digital photography and manipulation, Wiseman's thought-provoking artworks provide a unique lens on our contemporary struggles.

23 January 2024

I think of myself as a photographic artist using the camera to gather images for artistic use, rather than a photographer using a camera to record what is in front of the lens. I look at the world with an eye for the material that can be manipulated and enhanced to create bold statement images to convey ideas in striking, pieces of thought-provoking artwork.

Many of my images relate to contemporary issues, from the global environment to personal experiences that many people have been through. My challenge is to use my imagination and eye for composition and colour to create artworks that make viewers think about the content to raise their awareness of, and consider specific issues from a different perspective.

It is always fascinating, particularly when engaging with societal and political art, to encounter artworks that construct a vibrant and synthetic atmosphere through a diverse range of colors. These hypnotic uses of pigment not only draw us in but also have an impact on our psyche. In most artworks, artists aim to stimulate an emotional response before a rational one, creating a strong emotional connection for viewers even before they engage with the artwork's statement or speak to the artist. And the use of color plays a crucial role in achieving this effect.

This is exactly what we encounter with the work of Peter Wiseman, a self-taught photographic abstract artist who employs digital photography and image and color manipulation to create thought-provoking artworks. His practice demonstrates a deep understanding of the power of color as a semiotic resource, using it as a means to communicate social and political messages.

A Bond Too Tight - The goal of manipulation is to control another person in order to get what the manipulator wants. It can involve a range of behaviours from the more obvious to the very subtle.

Wiseman's background and experiences, including a period of ill health and a concern for societal and environmental issues, have deeply marked his artistic individuality. The artist's body of work responds to our shared experiences and times, aiming to provide a record of the era and evoke emotions and thoughts in those who experience his body of work. To support his conceptual investigation, the artist's creative techniques and visual structure involve using basic editing processes to enhance images and create high-impact visual statements deeply influenced by abstract patterns, expressionism, and the vivid colors of Pop Art.


"I think it is important that artists react to times such as we have been experiencing so that there is a record of how it felt to live in this era. In lockdown, with all the restrictions and fears, I focussed on creating works to record life in troubled times, from a personal perspective to wider contemporary issues, through new pictures created in the restricted lockdown environment and manipulation of existing stock pictures."


Leadership - You're not invited, this is not a party by Peter Wiseman. Image courtesy of Peter Wiseman

One of his works, "2020 Leadership - You're not invited, this is not a party," is a clear marker of the individual and collective experiences most of us faced during lockdown and a critical commentary on the discrepancies regarding the application of rules to government leaders.

The image displayed, taken in 2017, originally portrayed a marquee and deck chairs at a stately home where a special outdoor event was being set up. The final result is a highly evocative and curious image with a green background, a nude statue in the left corner, and several event deck chairs with vibrant colour patterns. In this artwork, you can undoubtedly experience the power of color, as Wiseman is able to reflect on the challenges of the pandemic and the social unrest, evoking a guttural perspective through the palette chosen. You can feel the aura of fear, disappointment, and emptiness that emanates from it. 


Another work depicting human connection and the impact of isolation during lockdown is "What the Future Holds", which is a graphic image portraying close-cropped heavy frames and bars. This highly manipulated image, in a red and black color palette, conjures sentiments of anger, fear, and frustration. The composition of the image, with the heavy frames and bars, represents the confinement and restrictions imposed during the lockdown, where the artist chooses to reflect on both the feeling of being locked in and locked out of the world. Making us question if the image is depicted from the standpoint of someone looking out or the other way around.


What the future Holds - The fear in times of lockdown that there would always be barriers restricting normal life. Image courtesy of Peter Wiseman

Just by examining these two images, we can clearly see a conductor line through Wiseman's work. Most of his practice is a strong critical discourse around social and political contemporary unrest, from both an individual and collective perspective. From the use of highly saturated colors, and surrealist imagery to artwork titles that evoke a strong critical stance, Wiseman's art consistently challenges the status quo and raises questions about power dynamics and societal issues.


"I think it was Degas who said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” The artist told me. "Abstract art is a powerful tool to raise awareness of specific issues. It doesn’t jump out and say “This is what I am…”, it is open to interpretation, requiring viewers to have an open mind, use their imagination, and see what emotions, thoughts, and sensations emerge."


Inequality by Peter Wiseman. Image courtesy of Peter Wiseman.

To further connect the audience and his art, Wiseman is planning to pursue a project started in 2019 which was displayed at the Florence Arts Centre, a disused mine in Egremont, Cumbria. This project, in collaboration with his son, a composer and musician, called “Music At An Exhibition” included his son performing music that had been inspired by the artist's pieces of work. This exhibition garnered a positive reception from the audience by appealing to both visual and auditory senses. 

Wiseman's body of work is a testament to the power of creativity and critical thinking. Even though some of the artist's work is visually provoking and sometimes even disturbing, it is just the right amount to prompt the viewer to look at global atmospheres with a renewed inquisitive perspective and engage with them on a deeper level.


Rebellion - At a time when the younger generation are challenging their elders on environmental issues and climate change there are many things that need to be questioned. Image courtesy of Peter Wiseman.

If you are intrigued by this artist's body of work, go have a look at his website. His website offers a comprehensive collection of his artwork, providing further insight into his thought-provoking pieces and their underlying messages.

Cover Image:

Displacement -This is an attempt to convey how I have felt at times in the past two years when elements of my life were coming apart. Image courtesy of Peter Wiseman.

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