Ex_posure: Paul Walker/Escape Velocity
Escape Velocity is a rare opportunity to see and experience a large body of Paul Walker’s work. The exhibition is taking place at a newly opened exhibition space in Aegina Island from 27th until the end of October.
Paul Walker talked to Eleni Zymaraki.
Escape Velocity is the title of you upcoming exhibition in Aegina island at a new exhibition space; in what ways did this new space formed your decision to exhibit your work?
The space became available when my wife was searching for a location in Aegina large enough to exhibit the results of an artistic collaboration between MFA students from Dundee, Scotland and artists & craftspeople resident in Aegina.
The location was formerly used as a supermarket with many windows and therefore abundant natural light and although it was lacking in wall space, with a few interventions it got transformed into a spacious high ceilinged well-lit gallery, the scale of which suits large to middle sized works and smaller pieces are also well accommodated.
It was my intention to soon exhibit previously unshown work and the presence and availability of this building seemed to me an inevitable and irresistible opportunity. The work I will show is a result of the last 3 years’ efforts, a period during which I have shared my time between Aegina & Dundee. I have been, and still am involved with a print group that I helped create at the print workshop at Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre where I have produced a body of prints including monotypes and etchings which will be on show. Half of the exhibition consists of the work made in Scotland.
Could you explain “Escaping Velocity”, the title of the exhibition?
I am a student of physics and the formula for escape velocity is one I am very fond of on account of it being a balance between the force of gravity which wants to hold us all in place and the energy that’s required to break free from it. I have a framed copy of the formula next to the door (exit) of my studio and when speculating on a title for the exhibition ‘escape velocity’ was the first thing to mind, albeit with tongue in cheek, suggesting the idea of escaping velocity, or remaining motionless! Before too long I gave it more serious consideration because it alludes to many aspects of life and to my work in particular, which feels sometimes like a search for freedom and expression within and despite the potentially strict geometric framework.
What is the connection between your art with physics and mathematics? What does colour contribute to this?
Being a student of physics I am also schooled to a certain level in mathematics but before I came to study in earnest, maths or numerical proportions were always a rudimentary tool when it came to initial designs and concepts of compositions. Mathematics, geometry and ultimately colour are the building blocks I have at my disposal. The texture of the surfaces of the painted works and the monotypes are usually the result of the overlaying of translucent layers of paint or ink. The choice of colour is very much connected to instinct.
I am very interested in the materials involved in the practice of painting. Since I have made Greece my home I have researched and adopted the medium of tempera which suits the southern European climate, I make my own paints and mediums as I do the constructions that I paint on. My interest in physics is also allied to the appreciation of materials and the concepts of weight and balance and the idea that things that are put together with economy and strength are therefore also beautiful. I have of late incorporated the ellipse or partial ellipses in my compositions, the drawing of which is based on a known formula and I derive particular pleasure from the special tension they seem to describe which a circle cannot emulate. The ellipse also refers to escape velocity in the way that an orbit is entirely governed by gravity and is always elliptical; the tension owes a lot to the opposing forces of submission and resistance.
The unorthodox, unconventional shape of your wooden canvases characterizes your work; what does this choice reveals for your work?
The shaped panels are conceived as drawings and often what starts as a line on a page will become the periphery of a construction and will have a geometric relationship with other lines or planes within the composition. The fabrication of the panels represents an integral stage in the development of the works although of quite a different nature to the deliberations of painting. Ultimately the rather sculptural aspect of what are 2 dimensional works is suggesting a presence in space rather than a depiction of something other than itself. A common reading of a painting on a wall is likened to the idea of a window framing an imaginary space; I would prefer instead that my pictures are presences in the environment.
How did your work evolve through the years and in what ways?
In 1988 I made my first abstract prints, principally to exercise a kind of freedom and particularly to engage with colour which seemed of paramount importance and something I had hitherto neglected or at least struggled with. At first I was experiencing an exhilaration at this freedom and looked very much to the abstract expressionists and the philosophy of ‘pure abstraction’. I eventually and quite naturally adopted geometry to compose my pictures I suppose in an attempt to anchor the seeming chaos that freedom can imply. The attitude to ‘purity’ began to diminish as a priority when I first started to use asymmetric and non-orthogonal supports and later allowing myself to incorporate illusion and trompe l’oeil, I am now in a situation where my work lies at the border of 2 & 3 dimensions.
Which artist or works of art would you name as significant sources of inspiration?
I was exposed to ‘the masters’ at an early age via a children’s educational magazine which I was subscribed to and every issue had a short graphic summary of the life of an artist and a full page reproduction of a work of theirs. At the age of about 9 yrs. my favourite artists were Titian, Michelangelo and Vermeer. I’m not sure my opinion has altered very much since then, but I have to mention the importance of the American artist Cy Twombly whose exhibition in London 1988 gave me the courage to continue on a path that was full of pitfalls.
I can find inspiration in an eclectic variety of sources sometimes of the most banal nature; a missing piece of glass in a broken window, fuel storage carriages on Scottish trains, gravestones or neat rows of cabbages in vast fields. I am a lover of art history and the idea that making art can at times feel like being in pursuit of the elusive goal of the alchemist armed with sticks and mud. I enjoy the serenity of minimalist art and generally the serenity that absorption in a great work of art can induce, to be subsumed in oneself and at least temporarily have the tethers of gravity loosened.
Paul Walker, http://www.paulwalker.gr/
Paul Walker, Escape Velocity: http://aeginalight.gr/article.php?id=87122