Paul P.: Byzantine Feet
It’s always a gamble when a commercial gallery in Vancouver’s notoriously insular art community grants a solo show to a non-local artist. Hamilton born, Paris-based artist Paul P. is exhibiting his new work at Blanket Gallery, which is improbably located above a nightclub on Seymour Street. Taking in this show, which is named after a fragment of text from a Ronald Firbank novel, the atmospheric paintings of James McNeill Whistler, Eugène Boudin’s seascapes, and the work of other Impressionists who depicted people at leisure, spring immediately to mind. In fact, one Untitled seascape makes unabashed use of the pinks, peaches and lavenders regularly employed by Monet. P.’s work also contributes to a contemporary dialogue of painting alongside the palm tree-lined landscapes of Silke Otto-Knapp, the otherworldly prints and paintings of Peter Doig, and the hallucinogenic portraits of languid young men by Vancouver artist Steven Shearer.
The pieces on view, however, speak entirely for themselves: they include oils, watercolours and lithographs depicting landscapes with weepy palm trees, closely-cropped young male figures, as well as compositions that are so abstracted that they contain only the most negligible reference to the figurative realm. Together, they create a world that is completely the artist’s own. These small-scale renderings draw the visitor in to produce an intimate viewing experience which is only enhanced by the thoughtful installation; the pacing gives breathing room to individual pieces for greater contemplation and the small groupings form evocative alliances. One seascape elegantly negotiates the fine line between representation and abstraction. The dark blue of the water mirrors the dark blue of the sky, demarcated only by a loosely rendered row of colour economically referencing trees and structures – life – in the distance. Another Untitled oil on paper doubles as both an abstracted seascape with the barely visible streak of yellow resembling the sun setting on the horizon, and as a simple study of blue. P.’s muted palette make his paintings look as if they were created at twilight, when the light is low and the world is starting to wind down. Melancholic and romantic, with their blurred lines and hazy colours, looking at P.’s work feels like being confronted with a just-out-of-reach mirage.
(L) Paul P., Untitled, 2009, oil on paper, 23.5 x 15.5 cm, Courtesy of Blanket Gallery
(R) Installation view of Paul P.: Byzantine Feet at Blanket Gallery, October 21 – December 15, 2011