top of page

Peter Kingston is Dead - Long Live PK!

It is with a heavy heart that I type these words, in the days after learning that the great Australian artist Peter Kingston lost his long battle with illness last week, aged 79. While I do not at all claim to know him well, I was fortunate enough to meet and converse with Peter a number of times in the Phantom world – certainly enough to know that we phans are all the poorer for his passing.


Many of you will have read the obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald by now*, in which their Arts writers reverently cover Peter Kingston’s place in the Australian Arts community. Together with other obits appearing over the last few days, they state that Peter was known best for his passion in capturing Sydney’s harbour life: ferries, wharves and other historical harbourside icons.


While a deep-seated love for vintage comic strips is hinted at in the SMH obit, with particular reference to Dick Tracy as one of “the many pop culture characters that populated his imagination”, unrecognised is that it was The Phantom who was often at the fore in Peter’s thoughts and inspiration over many decades of creativity.


Peter with some of his Phantom artworks

(acknowledgement Sydney Morning Herald 7 Dec 2014)


In fact, Peter Kingston was so enamoured with The Phantom that it was a source of inspiration for him from a very young age. Growing up in the 1950s, Peter’s daily comic strip reading certainly included Krazy Kat, Boofhead, Ginger Meggs and Dick Tracy, but it was Lee Falk’s earliest The Phantom adventures that drove a swathe of creativity that would span decades. “It is in my DNA. To sit down with a new Phantom comic, or an old one, time stops. It is like a warm bath, you are absolutely riveted by it.” (SMH 7 Dec 2014)


His wooden cut-outs inspired by iconic Phantom scenes are perhaps most well-known to phans, but his moulded sculptures, sketches, prints and paintings are also things of beauty. The remarkable games that he designed – a bespoke Phantom chess set and "The Phantom Game of Life and Death" (snakes and ladders) – are among my favourite pieces of his.


Image from The Phantom Art Show at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery 2016


These pieces that he created so prolifically, as well as many more that he commissioned, borrowed and cajoled out his peers in the Arts scene would periodically be put on public display in various Phantom-themed art exhibitions over the last five decades. Despite his immurement with the past, Peter was ever-focused on the now and could not actually say how many of these shows he put out over the years.

While almost certainly not a full list they include the 1977 "Ghost Who Walks Can Never Die" exhibition, 1991’s "The Year of the Phantom" and "The Phantom Art Show" (2015-2017). For trivia buffs, he is also responsible for the 1973 fan film "Fanta", as well as the 5-metre-tall Phantom totem statue erected in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney**.


Each of these endeavours were privately funded, consistently leaving himself and other backers out of pocket, but they provided Peter with untold amounts of joy.


I first met Peter in 2016 during the exhibition schedule of The Phantom Art Show, which he co-curated with Dietmar Lederwasch and toured around Queensland and New South Wales. I was in the fortunate geographical position to see three iterations of the Show and was thrilled when both Peter and Dietmar agreed to chat for a recording of X-Band: The Phantom Podcast.


What struck me in that conversation was the depth of his passion. Peter was a proud and staunch traditionalist who loved his Phantom the way he had grown up on him, through the art of Ray Moore and Wilson McCoy.


He went well beyond the idea of a ‘Falkist’ - for Peter it was only the first few decades that counted. Heritage and history were everything.


In his view, modern artists stylised the character and the strip too much. He saw other artists as “too slick and soulless”. Peter was not afraid to tell you what he did not like about them, including his controversial opinion that the strip should have ceased when Wilson McCoy died!


Little wonder then, that Moore and McCoy’s illustrations were the inspiration for the hundreds of Peter’s own Phantom-themed creations, as well as the countless others that he curated in the above-mentioned exhibitions over the years. He unashamedly ranked Moore and McCoy as the seminal artists ever to work on the character. They were the only Phantom artists he ever really paid attention to.


Following that podcast, we met for the first time in person at the Tweed Heads exhibition (Jan 2017), where Peter became one of our first repeat guests when he generously allowed us to release a recording of a public interview he gave as part of the opening weekend of the Show (see player - interview starts @ approx. 33min). He was warm and affable, just eccentric enough to convince you he was a real artist, and entirely passionate about his love of Phantom.



Peter was then genuinely delighted to meet my then 8-year-old son at the Coffs Harbour opening a few months later, giving him a quick personal tour of the Show, chatting and effusive, then asking after him every time we spoke thereafter. Peter seemed thrilled that the youngest generation could also be interested in his own life-long obsession.



Peter was giving of his time each time we met, spoke or wrote, then demonstrated this generosity in a very real and meaningful way when the Chronicle Chamber team coordinated a Bushfire Phundraiser project in response to the disastrous fires that tore through Australia in the summer of 2019-20.


In response to our call out to artists for contributions to the book that we were putting together, Peter immediately couriered several artworks to us which we “phaffled” off to garner extra funds.


Together with the box of The Phantom Art Show catalogues that he also delivered, which we then offered as a bonus purchase when buying the Bushfire Phundraiser book, Peter’s big-hearted contribution was a significant factor in the final amount we were able to donate to Red Cross following the project. His passion and zeal was infectious and inspiring.



Peter was obsessed with the Falk’s original idea of The Phantom, and the image created by Moore and McCoy. The idea of an ordinary man doing extraordinary things, the images of an adventurer emerging from the shadows to serve justice on evil-doers. The narrative of the stories were admired, but it was the art that he was truly fascinated by.


For Peter the art was more important that the comic strip, and easily transcended from pop culture into the fine arts in a way that harnessed nostalgia and valued heritage. He will be missed.


Peter Kingston in front of his portrait PK as The Phantom by Elisabeth Cummings 2014

(acknowledgement to AustralianGalleries.com.au)

 

NB - Catalogues, images and advertisements from Peter's various exhibitions, as well as the full Fanta film, can be found in our Phantom Preservation Project.


* Link to the Sydney Morning Herald obituary posted to our socials – thanks to reader Keith Bennett for the tip.


** If you have information about any other Phantom-related shows or exhibits Peter had a hand in, we’d love to hear from you at ChronicleChamber@gmail.com

コメント


Recent Phantom Happenings

Thanks for subscribing!

vault_edited.jpg
Patreon Support button.jpg
Jim Shepherd2_edited.jpg
bottom of page