Peter Opheim

Explorers and Brothers






Peter Opheim: Explorers and Brothers


Artist | Peter Opheim

Duration | March 5 – April 3, 2022 (10:00-19:00 Closed on Mondays)

Venue | Powen Gallery map


The Creatures and Two Worlds in Peter Opheim’s Oeuvres


Written by HU Jungyi

(Art Critic)


“Myths get thought in man unbeknownst to him.” ― Claude Lévi-Strauss (1)


When seeing Opheim's creations for the first time, the audience is easily drawn in by the strange creatures and images of figures he has created. These creatures and the world they construct invariably induce a sense of happiness. From his creations, we can also find a path of understanding into his spiritual world.


The interpretation of this path is not necessarily based on the perspective of the objects being cartoonish or possessing qualities of “cuteness” (moe, Japanese: 萌え). Rather, it is the generation of imaginary situations and the conveyance of meanings through the image carriers (the symbolic characteristics of creatures and figures). We can regard Opheim’s paintings and creations as a kind of language translation of the connection between philosophy, transcendent beings, and the real world to highlight the association in the middle of the two worlds. On the one hand, they represent the real world in the form of tangible objects; and on the other, through transcendent (2) visualization, they lead the audience to delve into an alternative real-world of the imagination.


Opheim kneads clay of various colors into miniature sculptures and transforms them into two-dimensional paintings. The events, philosophical ideas, music, literature, or other inspirations he experiences in daily life become the figures in his paintings in the form of “life state” imageries rather than pure symbolic objects. Although the concept of “real world” and “authentic world” comprises a kind of binary difference between “fact” and “psychological feeling”, for the figures created by Opheim, their highlighted life state and existence in the world in which they dwell is a form of free wandering and traversal.


The sculptures, created from his imagination and transformed via the interface of painting, undergo a second detachment through inspiration, feeling, self-inspiration and color-shaping. The original vision in the mind of the artist is transformed into objects in the form of tactile sensations, then restored from objects into two-dimensional paintings that are imbued with the characteristics of language transmission. Opheim endeavors to give the figures in his creations the possibility of their own lives. Although derived from imagination, they are realized as another form of figurative language.


“Meaning” is a concrete expression connecting human imagination and reality. Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes had talked about the unique roles and symbols of myths in the evolution of human history and civilization from the perspectives of anthropology, linguistics, and semiotics.


Roland Barthes first pointed out that “Myth is a type of speech. Of course, it is not any type: language needs special conditions in order to become myth (...) myth is a system of communication, that it is a message. This allows one to perceive that myth cannot possibly be an object, a concept, or an idea; it is a mode of signification, a form.” “... all the materials of myth (whether pictorial or written) presuppose a signifying consciousness.” (3)


In his speech “Myth and Meaning”, Lévi-Strauss pointed out that “the word ‘meaning’ is probably, in the whole language, the word the meaning of which is the most difficult to find. What does ‘to mean’ mean? It seems to me that the only answer we can give is that ‘to mean’ means the ability of any kind of data to be translated in a different language.” (4)


“Myth” uses different imageries and characters to convey the communication and reflection of ideas. Opheim's “creatures” also play such an important role. Acquiring meaning through perceptions, he uses open, imaginative language to create the image of figures and generate inner connections with the natural universe.