Peter Deacon RCA

Mountain Mystery
- The Prime Elements

The interplay of signs, images and symbols, irreducible components that I name as “Prime Elements”, are the basis of my art. I regard the component elements, referencing geographic location, personal experience, memories, dreams, prime numbers, geometry and primary colors etc., as “irreducible” and absolute. They are autobiographical and universal, specific and general at the same time. Consequently, there is interplay between what could be termed “destiny” and “volition.” This is an intangible and mysterious relationship, subject to permutations that are impossible to predict.

Using the Continental Divide west of Calgary as a symbolic and geographical metaphor, I reference locations on or near the 51st parallel to explore concepts relating to West/East division and North/South unity.

My first encounter with these Mountains of Mystery was in Banff (1975) after realizing that I had travelled west along the 51st parallel from London, England. Since that time the metaphorical significance has become more profound. Timeless and temporary become one and the same.

1. Prime Numbers (those numbers that are divisible only by themselves and the number one)

2. The primary colors of red, yellow, and blue often used as successive glazes as well as direct application.

3. References to the “Continental Divide” – the watershed whereby precipitation flows either to the west (Pacific) or east (Atlantic) oceans. The Continental Divide is used as a metaphor for the complex relationship between the left and right hand sides of the brain.

4. The use of postage stamps (both British and Canadian), references to writings and images appropriated from historical sources serve as personal and universal symbols of communication in the context of the illusiveness of memory.

There are, nevertheless, associations lurking in the subconscious that I hope the paintings activate. The richer the works are in these associative values, the happier I am with them (Deacon 1978 in Spalding)."


Peter Deacon is a well-known Canadian artist, who is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. His work is represented in dozens of major public and corporate collections and numerous private collections.

Peter was a faculty member at the University of Calgary in the Department of Art from 1975 until 2015. The recipient of many honors, including the prestigious Prix De Rome, he was also, in 2004, a recipient of the Alan Blizzard Award, presented in Ottawa for cross-disciplinary innovations in higher education. This is the first time a faculty member from the University of Calgary has received this award.

Born on the Isle of Wight, England, Peter graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Portsmouth College of Art, then attended the University of Wales where he received a Masters of Education. Later, Peter earned his Masters of Fine Arts Degree at the Slade School of Art, University of London. He was the recipient of a Prix de Rome award enabling him to live in Rome for two years from 1970 -1972 and he was Artist in Residence at the University of Nottingham in England from 1973- 1975.

Peter became a Canadian citizen in 1979 and resides in Calgary, Alberta.

Recent Exhibition: Celebrate Canada 150 - Mountain Mystery: The Prime Elements -October-November (during Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival), Willock & Sax Gallery.

Spalding, Jeffrey. "Deacon/Hushlak, Paintings and Drawings by Peter Deacon and Gerald Hushlak." Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 1979.