Peter Acheson, “Table” (c.2003-ongoing), mixed media, dimensions variable (all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

I first encountered Peter Acheson’s table sculpture several years ago. A strange thing that continues to change through the years, the weather and the seasons. Never finished, or, as Acheson himself has said, “It resists the fantasy of completion,” it occupies a place few artists are willing to take their work, suspended in longing and transition. So, I offer here some thoughts to take in its transience, its breadth, its maybe Mephistophelian face. The gesture of its full bloom, and the way it turns upon us to depart–and that perhaps is the best of it.


Peter Acheson, “Table” (c.2003-ongoing), mixed media, dimensions variable

It comes to the simplest of means. Instantaneous. Objects handled in such a way that a series of tensions are made to hold and then dissolve — to hold exactly within the content, and dissolve, suddenly, in the context. This is the energy of content flowing toward its form. Not setting it up in advance but letting it come. Here, there is no fantasy of completion, nor the refinements necessary for such an end. No one can tell where any of this might lead; an unknown that engenders resistance, avoidance and fear. The objects, played back and forth against each other like an echo from an unseen source, momentarily break open, giving off a clear, discerning light. Delicate and fleeting, these instances are moments where each element is allowed to retain its separate energy, and, strangely, to keep its proper confusions.


Peter Acheson, “Table” (c.2003-ongoing), mixed media, dimensions variable

Night follows day, and year after year goes by. The table, as it were, doesn’t grow, or lose its darkness. It sits through the seasons and accepts the changes they demand. Over and over the form grows, then breaks down, then grows again. Things come and go across the field of the table, that receptacle for daily living where we build up and tear down the ritual objects populating our lives. Cups and papers, bits of foil, a drop of red fluid, a small black stone — all colored by the substance of shifting shadows. With its ebb and flow of minor adjustments the table lays claim to our attention. It moves toward its inevitable demise. Yet, in its failure to attain this closure, it enters the state we call the continuum, that opening of the field where completion slips beyond reach, remaining subject to another placement, another removal, another day.


Peter Acheson, “Table” (detail) (c.2003-ongoing), mixed media, dimensions variable

The rain, as E.E. Cummings observed, is a handsome animal, dissolving all material bodies in the minute instances of its presence, which are later transformed in the dry heat of its absence. A clean sweep of the surface changes the atmosphere of observation. An accidental movement changes the shape of silence. Both instances approach phenomena with a clarity that is woven through all the parts of our lives, drawing their form from the individual substance of a person’s daily living, entangled as it is in the facts of work, the lonely hours, the pleasure and quietness. They seek to recover the poetry, seemingly lost, beneath all living creation, singing through spider and worm, wind and shadow, an intensity of existence that is never finished, never done. So, don’t sit there thinking; go out and immerse yourself in the sea. As Hafez instructs, having only one hair wet with water will not put knowledge in that head.


Peter Acheson, “Table” (c.2003-ongoing), mixed media, dimensions variable

Do you want comfortable earth and easy answers? The table is content to drink the rum of the sun. It moves, not of its own volition, but because it is tied to the forces of influence that course through its maker. Now a receptacle for mistakes, and for flowers, shells and bone. Now a signpost to summon old ghosts, nothing more. A handful of thoughts offering entrance to a path that has no end, tender ministrations to the wounds we suffer, true and irrelevant depending on how the mood and circumstances change . In its fragrance there is an impropriety of the black humus and corruptive earth that holds its character in place. Wind slaps its surface and the snows pile on its back. It sits here how many years? Who can say where intentions end and the world begins? Birdcalls, mouse tracks and a few human voices. There is no through trail. Happy to be finally lost!

Single Point Perspective is an occasional series from Hyperallergic Weekend that features texts about single works of art and the currents they ride on.

Craig Olson is an artist and writer living in Minnesota.

5 replies on “Single Point Perspective: Peter Acheson’s Table”

    1. I’ve got a backyard filled with this tripe.

      What F. West and Twombly had “completed” in bronze? More please.

  1. This table “piece” resists completion because there’s nothing artistically going on. It’s nothing more than an empty gesture. And this article resists relevance since it’s void of any coherent reasoning. In each case they seem nothing more exercises in self-aggrandizement.

  2. Beautiful — a wonderful piece of writing. Gorgeous language and very thought-provoking.

  3. How does he get of of bed in the morning? What depressing (literally) effortless seediness. Not art, no way!

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