Art & Philosophy

PETA (PETE) CUNNINGHAM

peta-pete cunningham's Main Work Image
Pete Cunningham’s work explores the fragility of everyday life for women with dementia, based on her professional engagement with them. She currently occupies and inhabits the mind and body of an elderly woman with dementia, moving between the familiarity of her Past the anonymity of her Present, pausing to stand like an island in a river whilst everyday flows past her at speed. Tomorrow no longer forms part of her vocabulary. Cunningham works across a range of media; textiles, sculpture and film. Cunningham challenges the notion the self is lost and offers an alternative reading – Granny is still present although she appears not to be. On The Bus (2019) saw Granny unraveling the waistcoat she’s wearing and knitting it anew. Baking-No-More (2019) illustrated her belief she was baking. Granny can’t tell you how old she is, but remembers all the stories she wrote. Fleeting moments perfectly describe Granny’s intermittent absence-presence. Cunningham brings Granny into the light, dispelling the darkness to illuminate her presence with one of her short stories. Cunningham’s work challenges the notion the self is lost; and instead offers an alternative reading. The Degree Show film, Hiraeth (2020) uses a classic Shakespearean conceit; as we walk with her out from darkness/confusion, through transformation in the GREEN SPACE, perfect for Granny’s final walk in her favourite woods, and into the LIGHT.

Photo of PETA (PETE) CUNNINGHAM

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  List of images

1. AIM HIGH

2. OLD GRANNY POP UP

3. OLD GRANNY

4. SNAG

5. MY DEGREE SPACE

6. ELISA UPSIDE DOWN

7. SILENCED 1

8. SILENCED 2

9. THREAD GRANNY

My work has been shaped by the life I have led, moving across Europe and the Middle East, by  the people I met and worked with, over the years.  I have a passion for the play of light on faces, hands and the landscape, and what a landscape we have here!  I  love the contrast of clouds rushing in, full of snow, turning day to night, above the already white fields.  I moved to Fife from Berlin 30 years ago.  It is the perfect place to live, work and be creative and I get endless inspiration from the tiny coastal villages, the hills with clouds pouring across them, and the little valley's and waterfalls feeding into shady sacred dens. 

I think art, something the artist or maker has made, serves two purposes,  to make and record a time or emotion. As one of my favourite artist, Richard Serra puts it,  in this gorgeous quotation, ‘On the one hand, there is the chronological time that it takes to walk through and observe it from beginning to end. On the other, there is the time during which the viewer experiences the fragments of visual and physical memory, which are combined and re-experienced.’

I am a maker, yes, but I am also a viewer.  Somethings I can make without having to think, and when I learn, or struggle to learn, I remember art speaks to us, the viewer, in a universal language.  We don’t have to know what the artist was thinking or planning, rather, it is how we feel when we look at a work: it touches our minds, and our hearts.

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