Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Paul Reid

Helen Thomson goes retro with the painting of Paul Reid. And before you mention it, yes I know that isn't the painting she's talking about. But there isn't a picture of that one online.

Odysseus on the Island of Circe

Oil on Canvas, 2007

Retrospective Exhibition

Hull University Art Gallery 9th Nov- 7th Dec 2007

Paul Reid is without doubt one of the most talented artists to emerge out of Scotland in recent years. He deals with Greek myths as subjects and interprets them in a distinctly neo-classicist style, a style which, no doubt, many people will deem redundant. And although this style did die out for the most part towards the end of the 19th century, it doesn’t stop Reid’s work from being brilliant.

Odysseus on the Island of Circe forms the centrepiece to the current exhibition at Hull University Art Gallery, and an eye-catching centre it is. The composition immediately draws your attention, the sumptuous richness of the whole ensemble demonstrates the artists affinity for oil paints. The colours have a subtlety and strength not often combined in modern painting, with its tendency to over-simplify. The skin tone in particular, perhaps the most difficult thing to capture, is made up of hundreds of shades with often only minute differences between them. This attention to detail defines the muscles, the ribs and the veins of Odysseus and his men. The broad brush strokes give the bodies a smoothness and sheen that is very realistic, while the short strokes used for the fur of the lion’s mane makes it look practicably strokable.

The composition of this painting shows a group of characters mid-way through action, freeze-framed as it were. It is at once natural and contrived, with the figures laid out just slightly too conveniently, in order to suit the purpose of the painting. Yet the painting has the look of a photo, so as to feel the characters could start moving again if only you stand watching them for long enough.

It is not only the characters in the foreground that are magnificently depicted, but there is incredible attention to detail in the background. The props lying around the characters get as much attention as Odysseus and his men, resulting in fruit lying on the floor that looks edible, clothing, discarded by the now nude half-animals, lying creased and crumpled on the ground, a sword leant against a rock that glints with the polish of real metal. The foliage surrounding the scene is scarcely less perfect. The trees are depicted even down to the smallest branch, the leaves can be more or less distinguished from one another even far into the distance. Without a doubt Reid harks back to all that was best in neo-classical style.

There are very few points, really, on which I can criticise this painting. There was a slight problem that I noticed with Odysseus’ foot and lower right leg, but if I have to be that pedantic then he obviously hasn’t gone that far wrong. He shows remarkable skill in his painting, a skill that is not often exhibited in this world of modern art. To deem his style of painting redundant, as some have done, is grossly unfair. Surely, given the public’s love for things made in a style that went out years ago, it should be deemed retro.

1 comment:

Nathalie said...

Hi, I love this artist and I was wondering if you were able to take some close ups photos of the paintings..? I am not able to attend the shows of this artist and would love it if one could find some close up photos of his work.