In Conversation: Peter Roche / AnteChamber

Antechamber – noun. a chamber or room that serves as a waiting room and entrance to a larger area; “a place of rest, of waiting, a period of both pause before, and anticipation of, and in this case, a future that is increasingly recognisable”.

 

 

AnteChamber, an encompassing multimedia installation by Peter Roche, showed for one night only in late June at the Basement Theatre. Utilising the main theatre, studio and dressing room, AnteChamber engulfed viewers into a prophetic world.

 

Entering the Basement Theatre, my friends and I were greeted by a bustling and sophisticated crowd. Like the experienced art patrons we are, we were quickly struck with confusion over where to enter the exhibition. After asking a friendly bartender, we decided to make our way upstairs and through the smaller studio, on the very educated basis that the main theatre was blocked by a bigger crowd and was therefore more intimidating. Making our way upstairs we were quickly greeted by eerie sounds and a number of stark white and ticking sculptures. Next up was the dressing room, which presented us with a large dripping sheep’s carcass, again painted in white. From here we moved downstairs into the main theatre, faced with letters projected rapidly onto the walls in an alarming fashion. Finding ourselves in the brightly lit bar area again, we looked at each other in awe and the slightest bit of confusion. After some discussion and consulting the synopsis in The Basement’s programme, we re-entered the exhibition for a second round of viewing.

 

With an apocalyptic setting firmly settled into our minds, AnteChamber was exposed to us. The ticking clocks became representative of white sound, highlighted exit signs revealed the futility of our attempts at safety and the chaos of the main theatre dislocated us from our own world. After cycling through each room multiple times, we exited The Basement enlightened and elated. Our confusion had morphed into in-depth discussions and we quickly found ourselves huddled over late night coffees discussing AnteChamber and the anteroom it had revealed to us.

 

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Educating and illuminating, Roche’s AnteChamber took me into a different domain that prompted many ideas and queries surrounding our world and its social issues. Not satisfied with my own interpretations, I was curious about the man behind the madness. With this in mind, I organised to meet Peter Roche for a coffee and chat at his studio in Point Chevalier. In preparation for our meeting, I researched and printed numerous pieces about his previous works. However in a fairly representative example my day to day life, I forgot to grab them before I left and arrived out West largely unprepared and unschooled. Have you ever been a fan of someone and then upon meeting them/hearing about their real life interactions, find yourself disillusioned? This was not one of those cases. Armed with my lack of knowledge, I entered Roche’s studio as a blank slate and was very pleasantly surprised. Adorned in leather and rings, Roche is the cooler than cool artist we all imagine. Despite my lack of previous exposure to Roche, during our short time together I became a massive fan.

 

An Elam School of Fine Arts alum, Roche has acquired every aspiring artist’s dream – a massive studio situated in an abandoned cinema, with the large space allowing for copious creativity and exploration. Roche first showed me around his many previous works, displaying endless patience in response to my limitless queries. With such a space allowing for bountiful artworks, highlighting every piece I examined would be impossible. Roche combines endless mediums to create pieces that are both attention-grabbing and sophisticated. Crude images and social issues are combined to create refreshing works free from censorship. One of Roche’s more recent pieces, Saddleblaze, is not located at the studio, yet still dominated much of our discussions due to its scale and attraction. Situated at Gibbs Farm, Saddleblaze is an LED powered sculpture that provides aesthetics and light to the popular venue. Saddleblaze is both a gateway and a representation of uncontrollable nature. The combination of dual meanings and electronics is a premium example of Roche’s use of technology in his work.

 

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[Saddleblaze]

 

This technology brings us back to AnteChamber, a series of works that both uses and highlights technology. The combined works of AnteChamber lay in the centre of the studio and successfully managed to draw my attention away from the artist’s other captivating pieces. Despite their different set-up in the studio, with the daylight obviously removing the limited vision of the viewer, the works still maintained their effects. One piece was noticeably missing though, and it was only after querying Roche that I discovered the carcass that served as a front for the show was not only real (and therefore decomposing), but had only been conceptualised and created days before opening. This last-minute addition is reflective of Roche’s general style. Through our discussions over the different meanings and themes surrounding AnteChamber, Roche’s standard process of preparation, or rather lack of, was revealed. Rather than designing and producing set pieces on strict deadlines, the artist most commonly allows his creativity to take control through lack of guidelines. Pieces are created without a specific end-goal in mind, yet they typically seem to find themselves presenting a uniform idea. AnteChamber, for example, was half-way through creation when The Basement became available for its showing. Perfectly suiting the theme of his unfinished pieces, the theatre and dressing environment furthered Roche’s anteroom ideas.

 

So, what’s next for Peter Roche? Well, as indicated previously, the artist isn’t fixated on set procedures and therefore has no concrete plans. Due to the revenue made from renting out the storefronts of his cinema turned studio, Roche is allowed this luxury. This lack of constraint has shaped and reflects Roche’s style, permitting him to produce uncensored work that aims to provoke rather than simply please.  An artist that has already achieved years of formidable success, Peter Roche is, and certainly will continue to be, one to watch.

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