Paul Newman’s vision of hybridity and painterly dream worlds have an intoxicatingly colourful and enigmatic hold over his viewers. Landscapes populated with pattered areas of abstraction, historic views, and strange figures intrigue and puzzle. Portraits of monster like creatures set against decorative yet haptic backgrounds seem an ode to the sensibility of Francis Bacon, while impasto like studies of still life objects recall contemporary painting such as that of Wayne Thiebaud and Philip Guston.
Newman notes an interest in the aesthetic of horror films, and the artwork of Paul Nash and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Metamorphosis citing his admiration for the “surreal juxtaposition of everyday domestic and urban settings with the bizarre, and a tonal balance of the melancholy and the sinister”. These elements converge to infuse Newman’s artwork with a sense of eerie strangeness. In the context of these myriad influences and affinities, the painter has developed a lush world of symbols and narratives depicted in a tactile surface that blooms with ideas, metaphor, and the enigmatic.
All elements of Newman’s practice are connected through an artistic approach best described as immersive collage and experimental iconography. In landscapes clouded by abstracted areas of paint, and historic figures, Newman allows a mysterious yet theatrical narrative to emerge. Indeed, the theatrical remains at the core of the artist’s approach and as such the series English Gothic is described by the painter as a tableau, narratival arcs set in landscape. To create these scenes the artist superimposes photographic elements over a historic landscape. In the building of surface, and tonality, the artist initially leaves areas of work and process visible, the first layer of ground contrasting with preliminary drawing and built areas of painting and detail.
In more abstract works, the artist’s absorbing use of texture and collage produces a surface made of assemblage, layering, borrowing and an imaginative reconfiguring of emblems, motifs, patterns, and hues.
Rosa JH Berland