Opportunities to view modern and contemporary art in Copenhagen were fairly limited. The most important modern art museum was the Louisiana Museum where cutting-edge art was shown. Most of this was influenced by the painterly neo-expressionism of the Danish Cobra movement and later, Per Kirkeby. The museum also had a few paintings by the American color field painter Morris Louis, a few works by the Bay Area artist Richard Diebenkorn, whose light filled, painterly abstractions appealed to Peter, and pieces by the Swiss artist of existential meditation, Alberto Giacometti, whose lonely and isolated figuration left an impact on him.
Peter also frequented the massive Royal Academy Library, checking out as many books about painters as he could find, and discovering a keen interest in the British painter Francis Bacon. From there he found several volumes on Abstract Expressionism, and was immediately taken by its expressive, improvisational qualities, much like the jazz music he already adored. One afternoon, checking out a book on Diebenkorn, Peter met another young artist, Per Traasdahl, who had just come back from studying at the New York Studio School, an independent art school in Manhattan formed by several second-generation Abstract Expressionist artists. Per was the first young artist Peter met also interested in painterly abstraction and the New York tradition. They became fast friends, and shortly thereafter Per talked Peter into taking a leave of absence from his job at the hospital and going to the Studio School to study with the well-known teacher Nick Carrone. Unfortunately, Peter found out upon his arrival that Carrone was no longer there. Nonetheless, through the influence of teachers and other students Peter was exposed first-hand to the New York (via Europe) post-war painting tradition, which included intensive studies of color theory based on the work of Josef Albers, figurative abstraction in the manner of de Kooning, and a focus on the materiality of paint and the subjectivity of the gesture as epitomized by Jackson Pollock. He absorbed this history, the energy of New York life and access to the city’s great museums. In this context, the Abstract Expressionist tendencies in his paintings were given full reign.
Back in Copenhagen, Peter took over Per’s studio, where he felt renewed but a little isolated and kept pushing the abstract style he had pursued at the Studio School. While in New York, Peter learned that Carrone was teaching in his own school in Umbria, and he spent a summer there, drawing from the figure and thinking about ways that abstraction and the figure could be combined. He returned to Italy the following summer to continue his studies and also to absorb the influence of the great classical art that decorated the city of Rome. While in Rome, he made up his mind to move to New York where he could fully immerse himself in the painting traditions which nurtured his practice.
In New York, Peter sublet an apartment in Chelsea and started working as a home health care attendant while he studied for a nursing certification that would allow him to work in the United States. On one of his many bike rides across the Queensborough Bridge, Peter saw the looming gothic buildings of the Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island and decided that was where he wanted to work, an ambition he was eventually to achieve. Meanwhile, he painted in an empty apartment in the Chelsea building where he lived, working primarily on large, painterly abstractions which reflected his most recent training. Looking around is improvised studio, he stumbled upon a stack of gay pornographic magazines from the 1980’s. Fascinated by this outdated trove, he decided to have some of the images blown up and printed on canvas, over which he painted in wax and oil, creating a series of hauntingly beautiful images. These paintings, expressed Peter’s ambivalence about the flamboyant gay community that he found in Chelsea. Unlike in Copenhagen, where one’s sexuality was treated as a rather unremarkable private fact, in Chelsea it became the basis of a colorful subcultural lifestyle. These paintings were an attempt to reconcile his identity as a painter with the sexual politics of his new home.