‘Moment of clarity’ led to arts career

  • Our man in Havana: Peter Lapsley, artist and executive director of the Bermuda National Gallery, with his installation in the Havana Biennial (Photograph supplied)

    Our man in Havana: Peter Lapsley, artist and executive director of the Bermuda National Gallery, with his installation in the Havana Biennial (Photograph supplied)

  • Peter Lapsley’s installation in the Havana Biennial

    Peter Lapsley’s installation in the Havana Biennial


His original career path towards anthropology and history inadvertently set Peter Lapsley on a course to become an artist.

The executive director of the Bermuda National Gallery was not tempted by his parents’ penchant for painting, nor indeed his ancestral roots in the arts.

It was through a class he took on a whim that he found his calling while studying for a Bachelor of Arts at St Francis Xavier University, Canada, majoring in anthropology with a history minor.

“I managed to avoid it,” he laughed. “My mother and father painted and I have ancestral family members who are artists.

“I wasn’t as engaged with art through high school and I went to college and paired a painting class with an art history class. I had a moment of clarity, that’s when I first started to make artwork.

“I realised that the active creation in this respect was something really meaningful to me. Ever since then I have been creating something.”

Mr Lapsley recently returned from Cuba where he produced an outdoor art installation for the globally recognised Havana Biennial Exhibition.

The opportunity came about thanks to his participation in the BNG’s Bermuda Biennial; former director Lisa Howie, had forged connections with Juanito Delgado, curator of the Cuba event.

Mr Lapsley, his wife, Andrea Sundt, and fellow Bermudian Jon Legere were part of a group of 83 artists from Cuba and around the world invited to transform the Malécon, Havana’s famed five-mile seawall, with their art.

Inspiration for his installation came from The Tempest by William Shakespeare — itself inspired by the wrecking of the Sea Venture in Bermuda.

Drawing from his interest in anthropology, the reflective gold Mylar flags Mr Lapsley installed are embossed with nautical signals, signs and symbols.

“The flags were tied together allowing for movement of the piece, once installed,” he explained. “During the day, the flags reflected the viewers, the surrounding landscape of Havana and created golden reflections at certain times based on the angle of the sun.

“I was explaining to people the background of The Tempest and the wreck of the Sea Venture. There have been some iterations of The Tempest over time, some of which have taken place in Cuba as well.

“The shared experience of living on an island with a close proximity to the great expanse of the sea is an influence on my art making and taps into a common understanding between often distant cultures.”

After finding his passion, Mr Lapsley explored painting and sculpture and since 2001 has been involved in almost 60 exhibitions, mostly in Bermuda and America, including two solos — one in 2010 for Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art and in 2015 at Victori+Mo Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.

He became director for the Bermuda Society of Arts in 2001 and remained there for five years while exhibiting widely.

Mr Lapsley then decided to embark on a master’s degree in fine arts at the New School for Design at Parsons in New York; he then worked in the city for nine years.

“I am fascinated with the marks we have left, and mapping and the deeper conceptual thoughts around that. I want people to be able to engage in my work and there to be multiple reads and interpretations. I am interested in ideas, concepts and thoughts.”

Speaking on the art scene here, he added: “Bermuda’s artistic community is a great one — we are a very small island, but we have some very engaged artists and people showing locally and overseas.

“For the size of our community we do very well. There could be more commercial galleries and spaces to exhibit work — we are a great space as are the other island’s non-profits, but we could always do with more.”

The 13th Havana Biennial ends on Sunday

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Published May 9, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated May 9, 2019 at 10:37 am)

‘Moment of clarity’ led to arts career

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