I’m honoured to be featured with a full length interview in this special edition of International arts magazine ART Habens.
It features works from my METAMORPHICA & Danse Macabre series, abstract landscapes from SUPERNATURE series and drawings from my Human Nature series.
Here is a copy of the interview in text format:
1) Hello Paul and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background.
As a completely self taught artist, are there any experiences that did partcularly influence the evolution of your creative process? In particular, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research?
First of all let me say hello and thank you to the Art Habens team,
it’s a great honour for me to be selected for your publication…
I was born in 1966 and as a child avidly read Asterix books and Marvel comics, and I would spend hours drawing and copying the characters. Art became my favourite lesson at school, I wasn’t a prodigy by any means but I always had this strong interest in drawing and visual art.
However I really got into playing the guitar and writing music when I was a teenager and chose between attending the local art school at 18 years old, or moving to London to share a house with the band I was in at the time. I chose the latter and spent most of my late teens and early 20’s recording, writing, gigging and touring around the UK. So years later, I think this love of music has influenced the Metamorphica series, I’ve heard people exclaim “These are very rock ’n’ roll” at various exhibitions.
In my late 20’s I started working with the emerging digital technologies becoming a professional graphic and web designer. During this period I became interested again in creating art and explored digital image making, firstly through digital collage and photo manipulation, which eventually led to using a digital pen and tablet.
I also started educating myself on the history art itself, reading artist biographies, monologues, novels and memoirs. It was like I was making up for lost time, as I slightly regretted not attending art school when I was younger. I still read and collect art books now, and have gained so much inspiration from other artists work.
I also started painting around 10 years ago, as a reaction to working on screens so much of the time. This impetus came from a need for a more emotive expression and I found that oil paint was the perfect medium for this, very fluid and a completely different approach from working digitally.
I have found that the medium and tools that I use to create work, very much dictates the end result. I work in series around themes, and can quite easily switch between painting, drawing and digital, abstraction, surrealism and figuration subjects, without the need to combine these into a single style.
2) We have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics, and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.paulsquire.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you what did address you to explore the themes of metamorphosis and transformation.
Visually I’ve always found these themes very interesting as they can be used to express many different ideas and concepts. As I researched world mythologies, I realised that the themes of metamorphosis and transformation were pretty universal, not only describing natural processes, before the advent of modern science, but human psychology as well. So I think there is something inherent in human consciousness that links us with the natural world with images and symbols as expressed in esoteric belief systems such as Freemasonry, Paganism, Shamanism and Wicca. These use anthropomorphic imagery to express archetypal ideas about the nature of existence, and I have used subtle elements of this symbolism in my work, without being tied to any particular philosophy.
3) For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected Metamorphica & the Danse Macabre, an interesting ongoing project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. Drawing inspiration from mythology, symbolism, pop culture and contemporary fashion , this body of works has at once impressed for the way it creates such a consistent combination between humans with paganistic totemism and skeletal decadence: when walking our readers to the genesis of Metamorphica & the Danse Macabre, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? In particular, do you conceive you works instinctively or do you methodically elaborate your pieces? How importance does spontaneity play in your process?
The initial idea for the Metamorphica & the Danse Macabre series came through this interest in mythology and symbolism. I had been thinking about if these anthropomorphic personifications existed, how would they look in today’s world ? I wanted the works to be very contemporary, rather than go for a sword wielding fantasy art style, so I dressed them in today’s fashion, gave some of them cool methods of transportation and completed the works with a sun /moon symbol background. The ideas for specific pieces just kept coming to me, “how about a bull biker?”, “a punk rock Leopard?” or “a peace symbol waving Lion?”
After I had completed a number of animal hybrids I introduced the skeletal (Danse Macabre) figures, as I wanted to add a darker element to the series. I intended for these characters to be oozing in luxurious decadence, literally dripping in sin.
I generally find the initial ideas come quite easily, although the actualisation of the work requires a long methodical process to completion. I have found that people often find themselves drawn to individual pieces, possibly seeing aspects of their own personalities reflected and identifying with them on an inner level.
4) Meticolously refinished, your artworks are created using a digital pen & tablet that allows you to highlight exquisite details: manipulation in visual arts is not new, but digital technology has extended the range of possibilities and the line between straight and manipulated artworks is increasingly blurry. How do you consider the role of digital technology playing within your work?
I recognise that the possibilities are endless, and the new technology is allowing work to be created, that could not have existed at any other time. I’m pretty happy with my current method of working digitally, although new techniques can always develop, and a new series of work may well contain some method that I’m yet to discover. The main element of drawing by hand will remain, as I think this gives my style a very individualistic look.
I would like to experiment further with lighting effects, backgrounds that integrate more fully with the figure and elements of design, which would enhance the overall layout. Currently I’m not really interested in animation, 3d printing or creating video, preferring the impact of still images, but who knows this may change in the future…
5) We have really appreciated the vibrancy of thoughtful nuances that marks out your artworks, and we like the way they that vivacious tones are not necessary to create tension and dynamics. How did you come about settling on your color palette? And how much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in a specific artwork and in particular, how do you develop a texture?
I’d been involved in graphic and web design for many years before branching into fine art, and I think this experience greatly helped in balancing colour schemes. Each work has to be harmonious in both colour and tone. I’m not really into garish or fluorescent shades preferring colour that reflects the animals features and natural markings for example.
Emotionally I seem to stay quite detached from the digital process. That is expressed much more in my paintings. I have come to the conclusion that life is an interplay of opposites, a view most closely aligned with Taoism. This is reflected in my artwork, as there is both light and dark at play, a nuanced seriousness mixed with humour.
The digital work requires a great deal of patience and by making the original line drawing very detailed, I can build the texture, light and shade, creating the illusion of a 3 dimensional figure. Each space within the intricate lines of the drawing is individually filled with varying colours, from light to dark in tone, a bit like a stained glass window. It’s a very time consuming process, but the only way I can achieve the dynamic quality of the final piece.
6) Your approach deviates from traditional art making to provide the viewers with such a heightened visual experience, to subvert the clichéd techniques, developing the expressive potential of the symbols that you included in your work: how importance do symbolically charged images play in your work?
I love symbolism. It’s all around us, in architecture, branding, religion, belief structures, company logos, you name it there is a pictorial symbol of it ! So I try to make use of certain symbols, not really to say anything profound but rather to convey an idea or trigger a discussion.
Throughout the whole history of western art, symbolism has played a huge role in expressing certain ideas, and I like the notion that the individual images in the Metamorphica & the Danse Macabre series, could be read symbolically by others. For me there has to be something left unsaid in each piece, a mystery for others to discuss perhaps?
7) SUPERNATURE is a captivating oil on canvas series of abstract landscapes that has at once impressed for the way its abstract feeling creates such an oniric atmosphere: how would you consider the relationship between abstraction and figurative in your practice? In particular, how does representation and a tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work?
The Supernature series of oil paintings is really a journey into the medium of oil paint itself. What can I do with this, what can I create that is unique to me as an artist ? These works are very abstract but hint at landscapes and structures within the composition. There is a rhythmic flow to the paint strokes further enhancing the idea of energy forming the world around us. A sunset for instance is not a static event, it is constantly changing and evolving.
It’s through the use of thick layers of oil paint that I can create the textural effects. The texture can be further enhanced with lighting either with spotlights directly above or below the painting, or next to a good sized window. As the light of the day changes, the shadows created by the brushstrokes change how the painting is viewed.
However it’s really in the area of portraiture that I hope to develop a greater blurring between abstraction and representation and am interested in how far this can be developed.
8) Walking the viewers to the border of consciousness, you invite them to question the tension between the abstracted and the expressionistic: in this sense, we daresay that your artistic practice seems to aim to look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meaning?
I openly invite viewers to give their own views on the work and it gives me great personal satisfaction to hear their interpretation. If people ‘get’ something from the work that is wonderful, if not, so be it !
I am trying to express in these paintings, something appearing from the elemental world, swirling mists of energy in a state of becoming, through the loose composition of a landscape.
9) Another interesting series that we would like to introduce to our readers to Human Nature, an ongoing series of pencil drawings and paintings centered on the interlinking relationship between natural landscapes and the human: we have particularly appreciated the way you seem to convey a surrealistic quality in object from everyday life’s experience: how would you describe the relationship between ordinary surroundings and your creative process? How does everyday life’s experience fuel your creative process?
I live in North London in probably one of the ‘greenest’ areas of the city, and we are surrounded by some wonderful natural woods. I quite often walk through Highgate woods, which dates back hundreds of years, on my way to the studio and have derived some of the Human Nature works from photographs and drawings of this area.
I create the digital work at home, keeping the painting and drawing, separate in the studio. Oil painting can be a messy process and laptops really don’t mix too well with paint ! My time is usually split from digital work at home and work in the studio, which I find is a good balance.
All experiences both positive and negative, can fuel the creative process, so I feel it’s important to try to get something out of everyday life, and channel emotions back through the art somehow. In that way it also becomes a cathartic experience, adding more depth and meaning to the work itself.
10) Over the years your artworks have been showcased in a number of occasions, including your recent participation to the Trinity Art Gallery Group Winter Show, in London: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?
To have any kind of interest in your work is quite special, so if it makes a connection with a viewer then that is great ! I hope the audience ultimately enjoy the work and if people feel that they connect with it on a deeper level then that is also incredibly rewarding for me as the artist.
I’m not convinced you can really define your audience too much, as people from all ages and backgrounds have collected my work, both in paintings and prints. Even though feedback can be incredibly beneficial, especially when you are trying to establish a style or new direction, I try to be open to both praise and criticism, without worrying too much about either !
Ultimately my art is an expression of my own inner world and being self taught has helped me to discover some fairly unique ways to do that. An artists work will never be universally liked, so it’s best to accept that and just get on with it.
11) We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Paul. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?
Thanks so much Art Habens, it’s been a real pleasure ! I am working on a new series of portrait paintings in oil, using palette knives instead of brushes, in which I hope to push the boundary between abstraction and representation .
New digital artwork in a similar style to the Metamorphica & the Danse Macabre series, which will expand to include other worlds, outer space and different dimensions.
New pencil drawings which will explore scenes within handheld crystal glass orbs.
And returning to my love of music composition, a new album of instrumental electronica…
– ( I released an album of chillwave electronica in 2018 under the pseudonym “Kinetic Alchemy” – just search “Kinetic Alchemy” on Spotify, Apple Music etc to stream the album – one of the tracks is being used by a professional UK dance company, in a contemporary dance work in 2019. I’d love to collaborate with more dance companies in this way as the music really does lend itself to choreographic interpretation )
Paul Kingsley Squire