ARTIST'S STATEMENTS by DANIEL PAULO
March 2006 for "Admitting the Strange Angels" at Dean Clough, Halifax
Art is a search, a search for something indefinable and inconstant. Yet
the search always remains, there can never be an end to the questing,
for the answers are always like half-glimpses, like the sighting of an
angel, which can only be seen out of the furthest corner of the eye, if
it is even there at all. And yet, something tangible does result;
these are the paintings,
May 2005 for Leeds Art Fair
It is the image of the human form that we relate to more than any other. It is absolutely of ourselves. I look to reflect this ubiquity, aiming to make a beautiful image that has an inevitability about it, as though it has always existed. There is always an attempt to balance formal and spiritual aspects, and whereas once I would have deplored the idea, there are no qualms about depicting angels, haloes and madonnas, with much reliance on religious and classical sources.
(A painting is allowed to grow from a simple figurative shape, transformed into a new form, aiming for a new simplicity which remains 'human', familiar yet unique. The process is felt rather than reasoned and at any single moment a breakthrough may happen taking the work further, refining, intensifying and clarifying, always narrowing towards the still, stately, elegant and timeless.)
Lately, Angels have been populating my paintings, along with religious figures such as saints and madonnas, derived from such places as Ripon Cathedral. The reason for this continues to elude me, not being a believer, and I kid myself that these are secular angels or formal creations which are derived from other makers' objects which were infused with the power of belief in God. In my case, however, the religion is removed. But that's not entirely the case and somehow these paintings tell a story other than just a formal one.
My work is concerned with human presences, often alone and in hazy, indefinite spaces.
Usually the image begins with a figurative drawing, but the painting is never allowed to remain literal. Instead a transformation is sought. Into what is always the question, the challenge. The end result is never predetermined but is edged towards, with much trial and error and many possible routes abandoned. Often the figure disappears into complete abstraction.
The aim is to make a beautiful image of a form that has an inevitability about it, as though it has always existed.
In a sense it is the process of developing a new image from the human form that is the purpose and meaning of this work, but in the finished painting there is a need to express an emotional response to the human condition.
Beyond this the real meaning must remain subtle, elusive and ambiguous which to me reflects our existence more truthfully.
The works are painted in acrylic ink, casein, gouache, acrylic, watercolour pencil, charcoal and pastel, mostly on board or paper. In 2005 I am using mostly acrylic on canvas.
Sources include: mummies, classical and gothic statues, aztec figures, religious imagery, egyptian figures and architecture, athletes (runners).
Influential artists include Rothko, Van Gogh, Munch and Friedrich.
September 2004 for "A Golden Age"
Occasionally one paints well, and even more occasionally, one paints well for a sustained period. Yet the fear always remains of ruining the current painting, and there's an even bigger fear which is something like "I'm, painting well, but it can't last much longer". The paintings here represent my Golden Age, when the work worked consistently. Here is every painting from May to September 2004, unlike the earlier pages on this site no painting is left out. The subject matter has narrowed to mostly single, standing figures usually derived from classical/religious statuary, it's too early to say (Sep 10th 2004) but maybe this work is my "coming of age"? The paintings are shown in chronological order from left to right.
April 2004 for Leeds Art Fair
In these paintings the figure is all; attempting to interact with it's surroundings but mostly finding empty spaces.
Should art always reflect states of mind? Despite the joys and terrors that life assails us with, the possibility of hope and redemption for these beleaguered forms must always exist.
Early 2004 for "The Puerto Rican Canvases"
After a request for some paintings on canvas by a gallery in Puerto Rico, I eventually produced these paintings. Not having used canvas for many years it proved to be something of a challenge, as I prefer the softness and absorbency of paper. The result is my most figurative work yet, and introduced images derived from classical and religious statuary. The real value of this work for me, is that it led the way for the series entitled 'A Golden Age' and my most consistent period of painting to date.
2003 for "Within/Without"
My art constantly pushes and pulls between landscape and figure, the former usually predominating. There has always been a need to place a presence within the landscape - a thing that is archetypally 'me' or 'us' in a potentially hostile 'other' that is nature. This concern persists, for I feel that the less we belong and the more divorced we become, the greater damage we do.
But as mentioned above, the 'placeness' of the landscape has dominated, fuelled by regular explorations in the limestone wilds of North Yorkshire. This culminated with a year long series of works based around Ingleborough.
Four years on, and the shift has moved strongly to the human figure, at times almost literally. The specificness of the context has gone, and the figure is all, still attempting to interact with it's surroundings but mostly finding empty spaces.
Art should always reflect states of mind; despite this I'm always looking for hope and redemption through this work, and this possibility for these lonely and beleagured forms must always exist.
2003 for Leeds Art Fair
This work represents a continuing investigation into our place in nature. Underneath and inside all of these images is a figure fighting to be seen and to be whole within hostile and fractured surrounding. Sometimes a breakthrough is achieved and a form becomes recognisable, but all too often, wild and uncontrollable forces dominate.
Can we ever be truly above nature?
2002 for Leeds Art Fair
"Who need be afraid of the merge?" - Walt Whitman
Daniel Paulo's paintings in the 2002 Leeds Art Fair remain in semi-abstract territory. However a new development is that these works have been guided by a reference to the human figure. There is an interaction between these compact forms and the intimate spaces surrounding them. This reaches a point where the two merge, becoming inseparable and dependent on each other.
Nature and ourselves - where does one end and the other begin?
2001-2 for "I Am Hid"
A continuation from the abstract figure works of 2001.
Whilst my work has always had an element of placing a figure in the landscape a change emerged particularly in 2002 which saw a closer personalisation. I have always kept "me" out of these works, they have always been representations of something "other", a presence which has often been non-figurative. Having said that there is a large personal element in these paintings, I've long felt that everything an artist produces is a kind of self-portrait.
Two phrases came to prominence to indicate how the work was changing:
I Am Hid: a phrase William Blake used to describe his own utter seperation from the fashionable art world (Reynolds and co.) of his time. I love the poetry in these 3 short words, and they say a lot about my temperament and the direction my work is heading.
My Incursion: the word "Incursion" intrigues me. An early title for "The Ingleborough Series" was "13 Gentle Incursions". That word usually suggests a hostile entering into a foreign territory. As a walker and searcher I aim to leave no traces, yet all the time the landscape is intensely working itself on me, pushing itself on me. If anything it is the hostile force and I am nothing to it. I like that, I like entering a place and allowing it to influence me to the point where I seem to cease to exist, and the landscape is all.
But another angle on this phrase is the notion of fading into death - can we go into death in any way other than a passive one? The notion of "My Incursion" suggests a forceful, purposeful route into death, to the next stage. This is expressed through the figure in an intimate space, as this work has been for some time, but as ever the accent is in no way on morbidity but on hope for renewal.
"Don't Find Me" is a possible third title for these works; a wish to merge into the earth, remaining undisturbed forever.
I'm reading about and looking at pictures of mummies at the moment, particularly South American ones, the care which these peoples treated their dead and their conviction of a life beyond impresses me greatly. Did they fear death or was it accepted as a necessary progression?
2001 for Leeds Art Fair
"There is a mysterious force that continues, so that we repeat ourselves like crystals that are dissolved and then re-crystallize again" - Edvard Munch
More than anything else, Daniel Paulo's work is a quest for an unseen power which suggests the possibility of re-birth
2000 for "Abstract Figure"
"The Ingleborough Series" was such a sustained and successful body of work that it was not easy to follow. During 2000 a new approach emerged, one that used the figure as a source, a big departure for the artist. The seeds of this were sown in the later Ingleborough works (particularly "At Rest" - December's painting) which began to move away from vertical structuring towards curled up forms within relatively hazy, indefinite contexts.
At the beginning of 2000 the artist photographed many sheepholes across the Yorkshire Dales. These were originally built into drystone walls to allow sheep to move between fields, but now are mostly blocked or partially blocked, providing a rigid structural form which surrounds a more chaotic bouldery mass. As a means towards image making this didn't work, the forms within the structure were either not particularly interesting or couldn't be imbued with meaning without radical alteration.
There was a greater need to refer to a figurative form and after reaching an impasse with the sheepholes idea the time was right to go to the figure direct. A number of life drawings later and the work began. In many of the paintings much of the figure has been lost, in some, such as "Golden Tryst" it has disappeared but in all cases the figure has determined much of the development of the image.
2000 for "Swinner Gill"
Sometimes one walk is enough to spark off a whole series of works.
The date was November 19th 2000. From Keld (Swaledale) my girlfriend, Ann, and I followed a wonderful high level track overlooking the Swale Gorge to descend to valley level at the foot of Swinner Gill. It had been 4 years since I had last ascended this wonderful rocky ravine and a return was long overdue.
quote from my diary:
"The waterfall at the bottom was gorgeous, not high but with generously thick steps, the clamber past this was the beginning of many. Lovely, lovely limestone with fast flowing water. We had wellies on and could get right into the flow. Falls then flatter spells, more falls ending with a fantastic narrow gorge. It took 1 1/2 hours to reach the fork at the top of the gill. Left, the dry gill led us to Swinner Gill Kirk. A new place, previously unseen and unknown. What a treasure. And what a bad time to run out of run of film! The fall was powerful and the cave underneath very enticing. With a tiny useless torch I went in perhaps 20 yards, and looked back at the rushing water over black rocks and the edge of the waterfall beyond........"
In the months that followed this walk I developed a number of sketchbook sized images, many of them based on the structure of the lowermost waterfall (all the "Relics" for instance). At the same time I was exploring the human figure on a larger scale, and, time being what it is, these Swinner Gill images have yet to be developed further. But I like them for what they are, sometimes small is indeed beautiful.
2000 for Leeds Art Fair
"We all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greenness, as last year's scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut swaths"
The above quote from Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" evokes a rich, colourful return to earth, a theme which is central in Daniel Paulo's work. Regular experience of the hollow limestone areas of North Yorkshire by the artist has inspired images of intimacy, enclosure and an ambivalent merging with nature.
1999 for "The Ingleborough Series"
This series was born from a feeling that my work was losing it's sense for the places that inspired it (the North Western Dales) - certain rules guided the series:
The area of Ingleborough with its limestone landscape rich in caves and pot-holes, hidden treasures and wide vistas, has been my major influence for the past seven years. Taking a near-abstract approach to painting results in work that is truer to my experiences, poetic and emotional. You won't see Ingleborough here, not literally, but an intense experience of the place is soaked into each image.
Since completing "the Ingleborough Series" I have at last plucked up courage to become a proper' caver (with Burnley Caving Club) and whilst always knowing of the rich underground complexity of this area only now can I appreciate how vast, beautiful and terrifying it is. It's as if the already endless multi-dimensional dales landscape has gained a mysterious and equally infinite fourth dimension where time has no meaning. The compacted fossils of hundreds of millions of years, hardened into limestone, dissolve in the relentless flow of water. No other rock is so transient. Taken to a logical extreme in the end won't there be any limestone left?
And what of Ingleborough?
I wouldn't want to see the great hill collapse inwards as it's caverns grew too large (though it would be a great spectacle). Impermanence scares me, I favour the solid state theory over the big bang, and I want this place to last forever, it can be a physical ache almost. That and my own flickering impermanence is perhaps, at base level, what this work is truly about.
Late 1990s general statement
The mysterious hidden recesses of Yorkshire's limestone hills are a major influence to me. I wander among these hollow places and discover secrets. From these walks images emerge, usually at the edge of abstraction yet always with a subtle figurative presence.
The resulting paintings are concerned with an idea of intimacy, of being inside the earth, an individual at one within the landscape. In turning to nature as an antidote to my frustrated atheism I wonder if there can be any truth to those rare fleeting moments of a perceived 'something' beyond mortality. This is my driving force as an artist, a quest for an unseen power which speaks of the possibility of re-birth.
Increasing the scale of the work has unleashed a passion for colour and constant layering is central to my approach. I use rich acrylic inks, gouache and casein which allow for obliteration or delicate glazing. Artists who have influenced me - for reasons both aesthetic and philosophical - include Van Gogh, Munch, Friedrich and Rothko.
1999 for Leeds Art Fair
My work is largely inspired by the limestone landscapes of North Yorkshire. Recently, a greater shift towards abstraction has become manifest in semi-organic forms that lie half hidden in enclosed vertical structures. These images encapsulate the intimacy and emotion of a silent secretive world.
1998 for "Heads and Tales", Drumcroon Art Centre, Wigan
My work is largely inspired by the hollow limestone landscapes of Yorkshire and is strongly subterranean and non-figurative in subject. I developed "The Head" series using the techniques and concepts of this landscape work.
The starting point for most of these paintings was my own face but the image was always allowed to develop in its own way and the end result was often radically transformed as detail and forms became lost under layers of paint.
As well as expanding my range of imagery and approaches I was looking to create a figurative transformation whilst addressing the current themes of my landscapes; layering of consciousness, a sense of time and decay, death and re-birth.
The work in the series were mainly painted in chinese ink, acrylic ink with some collage.
1998 for "Amid Greenness"
"We all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greenness as last year's scythes flung down in the half-cut swaths"
Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"
The artist sees these works as the first real expression of a mature style, previously paintings tended to be small and, though fairly abstract, dependent on landscape elements (such as the horizon line and perspective). Late on in 1997 the need was strongly felt to push the work on into more ambitious territory. The scale was enlarged (at first to Imperial 30x22" or 76 x 56cm), the horizon line was lost and the image developed as a portrait shape. The landscape was still the source but now the imagery seemed to derive from a close-in perspective - a human sized fragment of earth, and forms were developed from vaguely figurative shapes discovered in the Yorkshire hills, and from other sources, such as jagged windows in ruined Irish churches and bizarrely eroded wooden sea defences at Spurn Head, Humberside.
The "Amid Greenness" works arose from the above changes - vertical structures enclosing sinuous semi-organic forms.
The title came late on, Captain Ahab's statement seemed to perfectly sum up the intentions of the work, whether the painting had green in it or not.
Later in 1998 the artist felt that the vertical structures were becoming too rigid, the colours too artificial, the overall image too far removed from the landscape. Hence the idea for "The Ingleborough Series" emerged - a return to the colours and a more direct experience of the landscape.
1998 statement for the "Amid Greenness" works
My work is largely inspired by the limestone landscapes of North Yorkshire. Recently a greater shift towards abstraction has become manifest in semi-organic forms that lie half hidden in enclosed vertical structures. These images encapsulate the intimacy and emotion of a silent, secretive world.
My aim is to relate to issues of death and rebirth, time and decay, without/without, the layering of consciousness and feeling for place, always attempting a positive interpretation.
1998 for Leeds Art Fair
The work on show represents a continuing investigation into the mysteries of the hollow limestone landscapes of Yorkshire, combined with images of heads which have been treated in a similarly textural and experimental manner.
1998 for "Re-Awakenings: Paintings of Undercliffe Cemetery" Design Exchange, Bradford
Undercliffe Cemetery in Bradford was founded in 1854 and has seen over 120,000 interments. It is a remarkable place, not only as a testimony to the extremes to which the Victorians went to honour their dead, but also as a treasury of stone sculpture of which there is a huge variety. Urns predominate and there are numerous mourning angels to be found, often in thick undergrowth.
In focusing on this sculpture, my work, often brightly coloured and heavily layered, attempts to penetrate those hidden histories obscured by the gravestones, and to address death as a less fearful and forbidding event - an approach the Victorians themselves adopted.
September 1997 for "Barque" at Mercer Gallery, Harrogate
"You fare on the water's flowing flood. You come to life a second time" - Ancient Egyptian text
In Ancient Egyptian beliefs the pharaoh after death would undertake a perilous journey through the Underworld on his solar barge, to be reborn in the morning "as a new sun at its rising" (John Romer).
The notion of a passage through the land to rebirth has inspired this series of works. The shape of the solar barque is seen in most of the paintings combined with elements of the limestone landscapes of Yorkshire such as the hollow mountain Ingleborough. This is an area which has fuelled my work for the last 4 years.
I have long been influenced by Ancient Egyptian aesthetics and ideals and this work for me follows a natural progression towards a coming to terms with death, and an exploration of the possibility of redemption and rebirth.
General statements for mid to late 1990s
The major inspiration behind Daniel Paulo's art is the limestone landscape that covers much of North West Yorkshire. This is a hollow country, full of underground mystery, a universe of secret caverns and vast vertical pitches. The artist is concerned with combining these underground elements with those above the ground - the wild moorland, the distant line of the sea, cairns, and the limestone pavements, and with subtle figurative elements to indicate the presence of humanity in a primeval world.
In this way Paulo attempts to address issues of life, death and rebirth, conscious and subconscious, the future and the past, within and without; all these are opposites whose boundaries are more indefinite than we realise.
Another general statement
For some years the limestone country of North West Yorkshire with its hollow interior of great complexity and fascination has provided my art with a major source. My work lies close to abstraction yet as I explore above and below the ground I find echoes, shapes in nature emerge from a subconscious store of information which is fed by the regular experience of the wild cold northern hills.
My aim is to relate to issues of death and rebirth, time and decay, within/without, the layering of consciousness and feeling for place, attemtping a positive interpretation and to search for an atheistic idea of redemption.
February 1997 for Undercliffe Cemetery work
The Undercliffe Cemetery work arose from my involvement with the group Aire Valley Arts which commissioned it's members to produce work themed on Bradford to celebrate the city's Centenary.
Not attracted to most aspects of urban sprawl I turned to the Cemetery early in my search for ideas. Cemeteries have always interested me - the human histories hinted at by brief inscriptions, the burgeoning wildlife and clean air. At Undercliffe I encountered stonework in all varieties, an exciting formal resource, and in researching deeper, discovered aspects of the Victorian attitude towards death.
The funeral was seen as a positive healing process, a major event in the life of a family, drawn out over 2 or 3 days of ritual. No expense was spared to ensure that the departed was sent off gracefully and, often exotically, sometimes bankrupting whole families with their extravagance.
Death being a major element in my work I was here drawn to a society less in denial of death than our own, and the imagery in the work produced is mainly of mournful angels and decorative urns, often layered hinting at elements within and hidden, faded histories. My constant aim in art is to try to relate to death, to remove clouds of morbid anxiety from death, and to attempt to present it as a potentially more positive part of life - with a possibility of something beyond. Even as an atheist I am searching for an idea of redemption through death.
1996 About working practice
After unexpectedly discovering Van Gogh in 1987 I began painting knowing quicly that it would become my vocation.
Much, Rothko and Samuel Palmer also influenced my early work but it is the landscape itself that is the central driving force, the place usually being the limestone hills of North West Yorkshire, a country whose underground is as endless and fascinating as that of the surface.
Experience of the place is crucial and work is developed as a response to a memory or a feeling. In retrospect experience becomes abstracted, yet stronger, more intense and poetic; irrelevant details are forgotten, and the elemental forces making a place what it is - shape, colour, smell - are intensified. Perhaps I could pinpoint the location of each painting to within a couple of square miles but not be more specific - it is the essence rather than the particulars of an area that are depicted.
Practically speaking, the paintings - oils and watercolours - are worked in layers over a number of months with 40 or more in progress at any one time. Initially a work may begin with a colour idea, a sprayed shape, a collaged texture, or a splodge. Beginning is easy and there is a lot of pleasure to be had in devising new ways of laying down colour and making marks.
Difficulties begin in taking those marks and making the image meaningful. Often the only approach is simply to make another mark, and see what that suggests. After many sessions the answer may lie in colourful obliteration - and suddenly an image presents itself, but more often an accumulation of marks and shapes become "something" - relating to a place, an experience or a feeling. At last I am on firmer ground and the key then is to filter out elements that don't belong whilst trying to intensify and refine the image.
1993 For "Ingleborough" exhibition at London Ecology Centre
Ingleborough is the second highest mountain in Yorkshire. It rests on a limestone base which covers much of the north west of the County.
Limestone erodes quickly, therefore the solid rock that forms the upper reaches of the mountain sits on a fragile base which is full of caves and pot-holes, one day this limestone base may erode to the extent that the great flat summit of Ingleborough will collapse inwards.
This series of work relates the plight of Ingleborough to that of the world. The Earth seems to be strong and powerful yet more and more there are cracks and fissures underpinning the whole, cracks and fissures which are widening at a frighteningly rapid rate.
The image of the work is derived from the area round Ingleborough. The sharp edged profile of the mountain is at once aggressive but it hides the fact that inside it is hollow. Featured in the work is also the image of a cairn. It is man-made but it subtly suggests the form of Ingleborough and it seems to belong to a time when mankind was more in harmony with nature. A third element is that of the underground lake which introduces a new dimension - that of the mysterious underworld.
My work stems as much from the remembrance of the place as much as the actual reality of it. I find the shape of Ingleborough to be such an inspiration, and am at present preparing new panels on which to create new images of the great mountain.
I am fascinated by the hollow nature of the mountain, and therefore, the fragility. Yet it is also an image of profound timelessness, which is a curious paradox.
The other main elements of my latest work are firstly, the cairn, which lies at the foot of the mountain and which for me is a symbol of mankind's presence, yet has in itself a powerful primal quality. It has a figure-like nature.
Secondly, is the thin horizontal shape which initially derived from my knowledge of there being an underground lake beneath Meregill Hole. I would like the lake to be suggestive of the mysterious depths beneath the earth, yet also it has the look of a reclining figure, an aspect which featured heavily for some time in earlier works featuring both Ingleborough and Great Coum. In some pieces the figure is perhaps indulging in some kind of spiritual betterment, yet in others seems to lie buried, soon perhaps to be forgotten.
The three major elements of my work - Ingleborough, the cairn and the lake, are respectively symbolic of fragile - but strong nature, man that was, and lastly, man of nowadays. In this way I would like my work to have a profound quality, addressing the environmental crisis and mankind's spiritual crisis.