Haunts - 2017

Haunts is a selection of new works inspired by the world outside my front door. I capture my subject in the cool air and cold, early light of frosty winter mornings in suburban Hobart, placing my work in subtle collusion with various TV and cinema genres – mystery, suspense, Sci-Fi, and horror. I aim to present the suburban landscape in a state of calm that is both eerie and unnerving. In this manner, I am looking to reveal the commonplace and the everyday as simultaneously strange and familiar. By defamiliarizing that which is taken for granted, my practice looks to imbue its objects with a presence that is perhaps not readily apparent in the context of routine perception. In a strange rebuttal of the spirit of progress, the retrograde houses that often appear in my paintings harbour the spirits of a future that never arrives. Likewise, the cars that are either parked in, or moving through the landscape are apparitions of fantastic expectations that are never fully realised. Which is to say that their presence is characterised by an absence, spectres of the past that haunt the present. What frightens me as a liberal humanist subject is the loss of the Enlightenment project and its ideas of historical progress, but sometimes we are compelled to look into the darkness, and acknowledge the power of the negative.

Supernatural - 2016

In titling this show Supernatural, I am looking to lend the work an inflection toward ideas that have long accompanied my work but which are perhaps only subtly apparent. I would like the viewer to come to regard the objects and structures – vehicles, dwellings, power-poles and wheelie-bins - of everyday suburbia as having a persona, like any other being. The paintings in this show are based on photos taken on a number of frosty mornings in the Winter of 2013. In most of the pictures, the houses could be said to be ‘staring’ at the sun, but the nature of their gaze is somewhat vacant and enigmatic, prompting questions - was something taken, or received in the night, spirited away with the fog? There appears to be a persona, but it is enigmatic and difficult to describe, like initiates in a trance, waiting for a sign, or instruction - awaiting the return. In a sense, these paintings are portraits as much as suburban landscapes. There is nothing notably abnormal in my portrayals of suburbia - in fact everything most likely appears perfectly natural, as though there were really nothing to see. It is my intention that the excessive banality of the landscapes will only serve to heighten a sense of apprehension and curiosity, as though there were something suspect or secretive in the unassuming and the everyday. But rather than dwell on the supernatural and the occult, I want the pictures to open out to more general, philosophical considerations pertaining to the nature of reality, and questions of being, existence, and consciousness – a conversation in the realm of metaphysics, Aristotle, and Existentialism. The spectre of the supernatural and the occult hovers as a challenge to common sense realism. Photorealism has its feet, apparently, firmly on the ground of matter and common sense, but the appearance of the fog, lurking in the background, shrouding the suburbs, interrupts the equilibrium of the mundane and routine procession of the day-to-day. We also speak of photos that “look painted”, and as such, problematize any wish we may have to take reality for granted – and that there is a natural mode of knowing in contrast with an artificial, distorted view of reality. Our apprehension of reality is, more or less, the image we have of it in our head., and while we may not be able to challenge the idea that reality exists independently of our sensory perception, we can only ever know it as the image we have of it, which is to say that the reality we know is always already an artificial construct, and, in a sense, always already supernatural – and perception as a sort of stage-craft. The clear sunlight that Illuminates the suburbs on the characteristically cool and fog-laden mornings leave the subject of my pictures somewhere between clarity and obscurity, the fabulous and the mundane, the known and the mysterious, certainty and doubt.
Dr Wayne Brookes
A few weeks ago I had the delicious pleasure of opening a 2nd year painting show and it enticed me to purify my conviction towards painting. I began with the edict that “Painting was paradise, and that it always has been and always will be.” Many times throughout my life this decree has been challenged. In the 1970’s as an undergraduate I was incarcerated in an ideological hammock, suspended between a Surrealist and an Abstract Expressionist whose zealotry sarcastically excluded all those who chose alternative daubing and smearing pathways.

Then in the late 1990’s as a post-graduate, I was accused of being an aesthete criminal by a Scottish artist in Residence because being a painter meant that I wasn’t a contemporary artist. In a subsequent saturation “F” bombing she insisted that the true Avant-garde did installations and that painting was dead. That sure did put me in my place.

I’ve encountered beings who absolutely differentiate between process and outcome, but being a noun or a verb doesn’t address painting’s synesthesic power to make you listen and Paul makes us listen. He makes us listen to the super-nature, he makes us listen with our hearts. Listen to his remarkable silence. What has happened here, why are the bins still out, what is in the bins, who are in the bins?

The Supernatural moniker does not suggest that Paul is a disciple of the occult, rather he believes that the natural and artificial co-exist, art lingering between knowledge and the mystical, because you need to seek the enigma by being haunted by uncertainty and uncertainty abounds here!

He describes a transitional Jpeg blur, an artificial simulation of compressed artifacts, but this is a filtered awakening of interpretive vision. We have dozed before in earlier work, as suburbia succumbed to slumber and the haze, now the miasma alludes to unchallenged naturalism – his work is above the ordinary, the natural way to observe, but we do not see this way, because the photograph gives us everything, our vision does not, we are absolutely constricted by our limitations of our eyes, our focal range and periphery– this is not glam- real estate posturing, this is Suburbia in an un-banal moment – enhanced by atmospherics – it’s the peripheral sublime – it’s the romance of Turner in the northern suburbs and the irony is that post 1837 as a reaction to the birth of photography that grumpy old bastard, Joseph Mallard William Turner, postured that photography was the end of Art!’.

Paul is the most sacred of creatures because he breathes the exquisite vapour – the breath of an artist, the breath of a painter. His life will never be ordinary, because he is born of incubus, born of a monster, a fiend of such veracity that his very life will be spent in splendid and perpetual slavery. Ah yes the great ogre of creation drives him to madness in the darkness, but what fabulous suffering. ( I may actually talking about myself.)

He speaks to me of the agonising apprehension of all the paintings he is yet to paint. It reminds me of that fabulous theory that the human heart has always had a finite number of beats. It’s all about the pulse and all agony begins with personal stylistic obsession and we are all furiously aware of the aesthetic compression of genre and taste.

Paul’s urbanite haze, his noiric squint no longer barters the tenebrist torch because this is no longer residential sfumato. This is a portal to the velvet absolute. This is anthropological ether, with our eyes wired open. He has always suggested that photography remains an authorative device, the initiator of adventure, and a guarantor of a stable objective reality. But we already know this is not our vision – photography and the televisual world mesmerizes us because we are creatures who live within that limited focal percentage and we are bracketed if not comforted by the tangential haze and we are constrained by depth of field.

Beneath the ocular language of Paul’s craft is the fundamental suggestion that painting is alchemy – the incredible morphing of coloured paste into life. Its very essence is the pure inscription of the artist’s gesture, will and body. The very act of translating any reality, be it truth or invention through the transmogrified body of paint establishes a hypostatic synopsis – life does exist in that frozen skin. The very substance of paint becomes our reflective pool, for our ego and for our submerged issues. The painter is the painting and that’s the allegory of painting because we are always locked in a perpetual cycle of self-portraiture.

The Quintessence of practice must be visual or sensory sensation, authorship, the signature and the physical participation of the conjurer and Paul is that conjurer. If anything has been absorbed from those cunning little Post-Modernists, it’s the belief that the past will become the future again in a loaded Neo-Mannerist fragment that turns revolution a full circle, ah, the Oroboras. And the lesson here is - Never be afraid of bitting your own bum. The Zeitgeist suggests that painting is back, panting and gnashing with renewed vigour, and before us is it’s absolute unleashing – here is a man born to daub and smear…