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OKWA Why Paint?    June - August 2021   Art Noise Gallery    


Making art happens in many ways.  OKWA members are sculptors, printmakers, textile artists, photographers – and painters.  Why does an artist choose one medium over another?  What is it about paint that attracts so many of us?


Asking a painter “why paint?” is the same as asking, why art?  Asking an artist who uses various media “why (use) paint?” is more specific but no less compelling. The question encompasses the artist's reasons both for making art and for choosing paint to do so.


The question “Why paint?” is anything but new.  In 1839, the French painter Paul Delaroche supposedly declared “From today, painting is dead” after seeing a daguerreotype for the first time.  Kenneth Clarke and Herbert Read famously debated the relevance of painting in the modern world a century later.


The question “Why paint?” would surface again and again in the decades following that debate.  After a period of conceptual and minimalist art, the 1981 exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at London’s Royal Academy of Arts reasserted the centrality of painting. In 1992, a Chicago exhibit of eight painters addressed the challenge represented by digital technologies:  “Why does painting persist when making extraordinary images has never been technically easier?"


The relevance of painting continues to be questioned in the 21st century.  Why Painting Still Matters was the subject of a show at The Tate in 2013. The idea for an OKWA show framed around the question “Why paint” came up in early 2020, coincidentally at the time of another London exhibit titled (echoing the 1981 show) Return of the Spirit of Painting.


What does paint do for you in your expression?  Why do you choose it rather than another medium? Why paint?  OKWA members have responded and their work is on exhibit here at The Art Noise Gallery until 07 August 2021.

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Art Noise Gallery, Kingston ON
02 July - 06 August 2020

Despite overwhelming evidence of crises from climate change to social injustice to pandemic, many governments around the world seem unable/unwilling to act even as democracy is under threat and truth-telling stifled.  Individuals feel powerless to enact change. 


As Shakespeare's Lear knows, the naked body is an enduring symbol of human vulnerability and helplessness; it can also, however, represent beauty, grace and love, an aesthetic of salvation.  The female nude for me is at once surrogate seeker of truth and object of scrutiny.  In my work the female figure is both self and other; she represents communication and compassion.


Time/Lines is about my search for understanding and hope.  Time attempts perspective and philosophizes from a distance, while Lines finds energy in the rhythms and routines of daily life.

The Seasons series is a project I started 40 years ago and brought to a close just this year.  In these large canvases the figure is solitary and self-absorbed; she is at once dominant in brooding presence and withdrawn in mood, wrapped in uncertainty. 


“Dreaming ICU”, the Winter 2020 piece which closes the series, is anomalous in that the figure is inconspicuous. This work ties in to my Nereids sequence of paintings wherein a tiny pair of figures – their size symbolizing the humility needed to connect – explore distant lands and seas, real and imagined. 


Life drawing is essential to my art.  I need these sessions to loosen my hand and free my mind; if I go too long without them, my work tightens.  With each one I generate numerous drawings and paintings which accumulate in a drawer, although in many ways they represent my best work.

For this show I mounted them on panels treated with coloured gesso rather than confine them in frames, in some cases exploring further with paint to develop an inherent complexity of expression.  Lines celebrates especially the gesture drawings, those 30-second sketches done before longer poses; they have the vitality, purpose, direction to inspire us now.

TimeLines _Nancy Paul_Art Noise 2020.jpg
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