Faces of Tamworth: Local artist Peter Hooper

ON THE MAP: Local artist Peter Hooper with Tamworth's second big guitar which is set to be officially launched during the country music festival. Photo: Gareth Gardner 190117GGC03
ON THE MAP: Local artist Peter Hooper with Tamworth's second big guitar which is set to be officially launched during the country music festival. Photo: Gareth Gardner 190117GGC03

YOU might not know him by name, but no doubt you’ve seen his work.

Peter Hooper is a well-known artist, but his sculpture is larger than life in Tamworth’s Bicentennial Park.

Here we caught up with him, as his work was revealed and before he retired.

WEIGHING in at 1.8 tonnes, you could say it’s a heavy metal tribute to country music.

You might be waiting a while before the likes of Metallica are lighting up the stage at TRECC, but next time you’re in Bicentennial Park, you’ll get a look at the region’s latest homage to Tamworth’s musical heritage.

Peter Hooper is the man behind the 6.3 metre-tall Picasso Guitar sculpture recently installed in the Kable Ave park and he even thought it was a tall order.

“I put in a number of proposals and the committee selected the guitar,” he told The Leader.

I thought ‘you’re dreaming’, that’ll never happen, it’ll cost too much.

Artist Peter Hooper

“At that stage, I thought ‘you’re dreaming’, that’ll never happen, it’ll cost too much.”

But the design – which was brought to life by Gary Gracie and B&G Fabrications – is here to stay.

Mr Hooper knows there will be some naysayers along the way.

“It’s a public artwork, so some will hate it, some will like it  and many will be indifferent about it,” Mr Hooper said.

“It’s nice that it evokes a response one way or another.”

Mr Hooper is keen to hear Troy Cassar-Daley’s thoughts, who will unveil the sculpture.

“He’s an avid collector of guitars, so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say,” he said.

Final lesson: Local artist and sculptor Peter Hooper gave one final lesson in May to local students before packing up for a Sydney retirement. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Final lesson: Local artist and sculptor Peter Hooper gave one final lesson in May to local students before packing up for a Sydney retirement. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Earlier this year, he hung up his sculpting tools and headed to Sydney, leaving Tamworth, and his iconic Picasso Guitar sculpture behind as he looks to finally quieten down and “de-clutter” his life.

Before he left however, the former Oxley High art teacher, who moved here in 1974, dropped into the Tamworth Regional Gallery to give one more special lesson to local senior high school art students, many of which are being taught by two former students of his.

Current Oxley High and Tamworth High art teachers Liesel McIlrick and Tina Poder were both taught by Mr Hooper at Oxley High, with both explaining his passion and knowledge drove them on to become art teachers themselves.

“He has made a huge contribution locally to visual art, and the reason we both went on to become art teachers is because of him,” Ms Poder said.

“These kids are very lucky to be here for his final ever lesson as a teacher.” 

Mr Hooper, who retired from teaching 15 years ago, is taking a different twist on settling down, instead of moving to some acreage in the country, he is doing the opposite and moving to a Sydney terrace, and he says it is a necessity. 

“I want to go back to the Sydney life – having the luxuries of galleries and dining out on my doorstep, but I also need to declutter and simplify my life,” he said.

I have got to stop sculpting and making art, because the moment I make stuff I have just got more stuff – that the problem with being an artist.

Peter Hooper

“I have got to stop sculpting and making art, because the moment I make stuff I have just got more stuff – that the problem with being an artist.” 

While the Picasso Guitar in Bicentennial Park will forever be his legacy to Tamworth, Mr Hooper takes just as much pride in producing and teaching a generation of artists from his studio at Oxley High.

“Coming here today and engaging with my ex-students who are now teaching other students was quite special – I am sure I will reflect on that in years to come,” he said.

“I had a great time teaching, although the profession comes with such highs and lows. The highs are great, but they probably wouldn’t be without the difficult bits.” 

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