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(The Paintings of Paul P.)

This isn’t the umpteenth ode to the return of Painting, in part because Painting has never really left us. Painting, that elderly aunt—that beautiful oil on canvas, with its universe of naked women, landscapes and still lifes—is an irrepressible need and an outlandish vice: it pops up when you least expect it.
We tried to push the boundaries of art, to expand its sphere of action. These days artists shoot films, write texts, make installations; sometimes they paint white or greenish monochromes.
We really did our best to bury Painting, under urinals, mustachioed Mona Lisas, matchstick collages, live horses, canned shit, middle fingers, crucified frogs.

Yet there she still stands, undaunted: Painting, with her retinue of nudes, landscapes, seascapes, faces, gorgeous derrières… The return of painting in the Eighties was a backlash against the conceptual avant-garde movements that had cancelled everything out. But the staying power of a work is based on quality, which is not just a question of technique, but of concept, insight, intelligence, grace, aura, ecstasy, form…
Every so often, the good old medium rears its head again, as with Bacon, Richter, Warhol, Golub, De Dominicis, sometimes with Schifano. And often, at its best, it evokes a different realm, looking outside the scene, careening off the rails, trying to tell a different story. Just as the faces and landscapes created by this mysterious Paul P. direct our gaze beyond the edges of the canvas. But what’s going on out there?
Paul P.’s paintings—small, intense oils, in muted, almost hazy colors—portray people who seem to be in a dream state. Semi-conscious, they are watching something strange that takes place outside the frame: an imminent danger, a murderer approaching, or maybe just a lover getting undressed in the next room?

I saw two paintings by Paul P. (who was born in 1977 in Canada) at the Brussels Art Fair, and was quite impressed. So I got in touch, he wrote back, and we began exchanging emails with my questions and his answers. His works remind me of Richard Tuttle, and Paul was startled by this comparison; who knows why it came to mind. One might also see a link with the concept of the “blue hour” that Jan Fabre borrowed from his great-grandfather, the renowned entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre.
There is an intentional air of mystery in Paul’s paintings, a hushed sense of awe, a state of suspension and transition which resembles that moment, just before dawn, when the creatures of the night begin to doze and those of the day begin to stir. The sensual chiaroscuro of the landscape also contributes to this delicate enigma: created through painterly artifice, of course, it is meant to evoke emotions we thought we had buried under Mona Lisa’s mustache. Emotions that instead live on, deep inside us, patiently waiting to be rekindled.
His paintings speak of expectations, hopes, gazes, fears, nightmares and dreams that seem to take place in that state between sleeping and waking: something experienced time and again, but that always feels like the return of a sweet memory or an outlandish vice.