This is a fascinating idea and the elongated title tells you exactly what it is about.
Insights into the creative process can be a mixed blessing. Some artists work instinctively and have little to say: “my paintings speak for themselves” is the limit of their explanation. That, you can argue, is as it should be: art that needs explanation isn’t true art (discuss, showing your workings). Other artists are eloquent on their working methods, stage-by-stage processes and creative juices. Sometimes, they’re quite good painters too.
There is an enormous stumbling block in this otherwise excellent book: do you like Paul’s work? Are you ready for a style of painting that centres on the mundane (unoccupied utilitarian chairs in an ill-lit, empty lobby, anyone?) The results, that frequently look like badly-shot Polaroids, won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no doubt about the art and, I’m going to argue, the creativity. This is something more than simple realism; it’s a form of abstraction that adds more than a little (poor focus, motion blur, restricted lighting) to the subject. To achieve this requires not just quite a lot of skill, but also vision, and that’s where this book comes in.
The thing is, Paul is eloquent on creative thought, but he’s not prolix. The pieces that accompany (on the facing page) each of the 59 paintings are something between an extended caption and a mini-essay. They tell you more than just the bare facts and do actually achieve the stated aim of being a sort of meditation on the scene, the representation and the means of getting from one to the other.
I’ve talked myself into liking this and I’ve done it because Paul has made me think, both visually and verbally. I’ve created my own inner dialogue and I think he’ll get you to do the same. I won’t be visiting a gallery with my cheque book out any time soon, but I will be coming back to this book.
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