untitled 2.0 | paul james cunningham | proto-fetishist paintings

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untitled 2.0

|paul james cunningham proto-fetishist paintings

untitled 2.0

|paul james cunningham proto-fetishist paintings

december 2, 2016 ~ january 31, 2017

untitled 2.0 a gallery on the corner of 6th & g street 119 se “g” street, grants pass, or 97526 dewayne thomas lumpkin 541.761.9978 | untitled2gallery.com copyright © 2016 untitled 2.0 all rights reserved no portion of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission of the publisher this catalogue is published in conjunction with the exhibition proto-fetishist paintings {untitled 2.0, december 2, 2016 - january 31, 2017}. all works completed 2015 and 2016 with oils and beeswax on linen mounted on board by paul james cunningham see colour plate directory at back of catalogue for painting specics special thanks for proofreading and editing: barbara cunningham, jessica ottum, pastor steven r. sparley and the trifecta of pauls: paul james cunningham, paul silas trapp and paul bridenbaugh printed by pixartprinting usa incorporated 275 wyman street waltham ma 02451 855.932.7498 | pixartprinting.com photography by nikita konetski - nikita lee photography grants pass, or 97526 cover concept and catalogue design by audrey isbell - ava virtual assistance 1867 williams hwy - suite #207 grants pass, or 97527 541.244.2606 | avapowerup.com

the edge Paul James Cunningham paints masterful sketches of seascapes and industrial shipyards. The word sketch does not minimize the work. Looseness is the end goal. Painting in this manner prevents the over intellectualizing of the work. He is focused on the act of painting. The low threshold of colour perception rendered in oil and beeswax create a smoky palette that depicts abstract clusters of buildings and open spaces of sky that are both recognizable and painterly. The objects in Cunningham's paintings are identiable, yet the looseness of his style creates a non-xed sense of space. The perspective in some pieces contributes to a sense of ether in the aftermath of a storm. There is active loss and great beauty, like a reverse portent. Cunningham's work is imbued with natural visual energy. He does not consider himself a plein air painter, or a landscape painter. His direct sources are site specic with two dozen photographs of places that “hold {him}” in current rotation. He uses recognizable subjects such as shorelines, ships and factories as starting points. His most true desire is to create lasting internal spaces. The seashore can change, but the beauty of it lives within memory and experience. His paintings are

not a record of what he sees. They are a reaction to his experience. “I'm not interested in bringing the reality of the play of light on a tree,” Cunningham says, “I am fascinated by it, but I would rather look at the tree and the light on it rather than bother with the intermediary of art. You have to separate that whole thing. You have to go into a different type of space, almost like a trance...losing a sense of yourself. It is a sense of slipping into timelessness with nothing to hold onto...and when you are painting you are on a precipice." When Cunningham paints he nds himself on a metaphorical edge trying to answer questions: Is this too much about space or paint? Should I take it back a step? What is the excess I can eliminate? These questions are important to his process because he is constantly doing a push and pull, balancing the darks and lights, the clear and the smoky areas, and he believes the painting is what happens in between. His ultimate endeavor is to deconstruct an object down to its core or it's essence. To quote him, "I am not trying to paint clouds. I paint cloudness... I try to nd a way of articulating a


recognizable visual space without imbuing it with nostalgia. You have to strip away a lot of layers of things. And you have to talk about time without having highly rendered articulated spaces, you have to get yourself back to the edge." Cunningham says he needs to keep himself at that edge because it helps him be selective. By putting just enough information in the painting for his viewers, he can keep it open and suggestive. It creates a view that is not singular, but one that deals with multiple variables. As an example, a horizon line expands into space and does not end. In his paintings he tries to create a handful of vague potential horizon lines to help delineate the space. They become possibilities for the viewer to experience his paintings in a new way each time. Painting a vague sense of space, somewhere between illusion and abstraction, allows him to create an environment for viewers to move forward and back on a similar edge of experience. Keeping all of these painting elements balanced is what makes the magic. This is why his paintings look like sketches. He does not want a complete painting. If all the space is rendered complete there is no freedom for the audience. No way for them to suspend their disbelief. This suspension of

disbelief is an experiential one. It is not ctitious. It is a moment of awe where beauty remains constant. Cunningham strives to break through to something else in order to nd what is behind the experience. This act of searching is an innate human drive. Joseph Campbell advances this idea with an excerpt from The Power of Myth: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Campbell is referring to a more spiritual or mythological meaning in life, but I think his statement also rings true when discussing our experiences of nature and artistic objects that intrigue us. Artistic objects must have a life of their own. There has to be a way into a painting and a way out. A space that does not capture, but one that is open, honest, and shared.


In Cunningham’s work horizons, colours, and shapes create a new place that is balanced between observed objects and timeless qualities. A place that transcends the earthly, the mundane. He believes if the objects in the painting are shown in a nonjudgmental way a viewer can participate by lling in the space with their own thoughts, sense of joy, and personal history.

belief suspended? What experiences do you glean, and what questions do you ask?

This idea stands perilously close to the edge, but it does not present itself as excess in the work. It appears as a desire to share joy with others by introducing a new participatory experience of search and discovery. Viewers are invited to dig deep and move past the provincial images of nature to raise questions about what is behind this reality.

Paul Silas Trapp November 10, 2016

Cunningham says, "You have to share the work. The viewer is an important element in the process of art. The work is a test. If a work speaks to you and if you have a complete experience with it, then the work is successful.”

A successful sketch is a complete experience. That is the way of art for Cunningham. His joy of a natural surrounding, his painting process, and his viewers' observation of his paintings are all linked, and yet for them to work together they must be kept separate. They all must have their own mental space - their own edge, individually. As a viewer, can you walk up to that edge and hold that experience? Can you be the juggler and keep





“I found a way of making paintings that aren't paintings, but stains of consciousness that still have enough room in them to travel through. They still have impression and atmosphere.� - Paul James Cunningham (PJC), 2016






“To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.” - Daniel Patrick Moynihan. 1927 – 2003



“They used to think there was something wrong with me because I was such a quiet child; so withdrawn. But I drew, that was my currency. It was my currency all through school. I drew everything.� - PJC, 2016



“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.� - John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, 1851






“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.� - Edna O'Brien, Born 1930



“Early on, I won art prizes. I knew I had to stay in the saddle. There's always the precipice. There's always the abyss and in order to not fall into it – you perform. I couldn't pass the tests because they were math and English and all those really dreadful subjects. But I could draw and paint and I was the only one in class really interested in art. Because northern Ireland wasn't known for culture, it wasn't known for art. Belfast is a provincial town; its about money. I used to go over and I'd get the watercolors and those great big brushes they used to have for the kids and I would take them over and I would start painting. I'd work and the teacher would be looking at me like, 'What the hell's going here,' and then she'd come over and say, 'Ooh that's an airplane. Ooh that's lovely. Oh that's really nice,' and she'd hold it up for the rest of the class and that's when I became an exhibiting artist. I knew that really worked and it was kind of a performance that you did and you didn't have to say anything and you didn't have to do anything but do what you really love.� - PJC, 2016





“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.� - W.B. Yeats, 1865-1939






"A sudden light transgures a trivial thing, a weather vane, a windmill, a winnowing ail, the dust in the barn door; a moment – and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect; but it leaves a relish behind it, a longing that the accident may happen again." - Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies of Art and Poetry, 1873



“To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the nite as innite.” - Novalis, 1772 – 1801



“We always return to the roots of what is experienced as overwhelming beauty. I think that badly describes a sense of melancholy which is a sense of loss. It's a sense of not being able to hold on. You see it and you know it’s ephemeral...the eetingness of the moment. And when you watch clouds, when you watch weather, that's the reason I paint weather. But, I paint it as an interior feeling – that's my emotion, the weather.” - PJC, 2016



“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music" – Walter Pater, The School of Giorgione, 1877



“As you get older you recognize beauty and the word is so hackneyed and it's so tortured but it's still a concept that we can't get away from. Ireland is a terrible beauty. Leon Uris - a great writer, an American writer - wanted to write about the whole conict in Ireland and at the very end he said that he could not believe how something so tragic, so heinous could take place somewhere so beautiful. Uris wondered, in writing, how people that lived in such utter beauty could not be infected by it. And so he called it a terrible beauty. And so you'll see that in the paintings – that struggle with beauty as an outside element almost. Although none of us really know what it actually is. We may know it when we see it, but it isn't an actual commodity – there's no real benchmark. Leon Uris was right and Ireland maintains its reputation as a Terrible Beauty.” - PJC, 2016





“Music can disarm me and put me in a state of melancholia. The state of melancholia gives you a way of breaking through the hypnosis of things and eliminating resistance to enjoying that kind of space.� - PJC, 2016



“From a landscape painter’s point of view, Dingle Bay in western Ireland is one of the most gorgeous places on earth. You couldn't paint it because of its overwhelming beauty, it locks you out. Too much beauty. The glass is way more than half full. There's a time when you just have to walk away because you're not up to what God has wrought, as it were...you're just not up to it. And then since you're a charlatan anyway – you're not a landscape painter – you've no business being there. And anyway, what are you going to say to go beyond that.” - PJC, 2016



“The world must be romanticized. Only in that way will one rediscover its original senses. Romanticization is nothing less than a qualitative raising of the power of a thing . . . I romanticize something when I give the commonplace a higher meaning, the known the dignity of the unknown, and the finite the appearance of the infinite.� - Novalis, 1772 – 1801








“Painting is a place that I can go...where I've gone all my life for solace.� - PJC, 2016



“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.� - John Ruskin, The School of Giorgione, 1888



“Art should free itself from time because in that time is encoded a sense of history. There's a whole sociological connection because you become a casualty of history. If art happens it doesn't depend on the artist. It's just a place you put yourself and you let go and you can never ever work your way through a painting – the minute you start to do that – the painting evaporates and it just all goes.” - PJC, 2016



“The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.” - James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922









“In a work of art, chaos must shimmer through the veil of order.” - Novalis, 1772 – 1801



“Our unconscious is a mineeld because we have our ego and then we've developed - in the modern world - an ideal ego which is a bit of a performance. It's a way of dealing with everything on the outside but still we drag this massive block with us called the unconscious. It doesn't operate the way it used to because we don't live in a society that has rules and regulations and punishments. That subconscious or alter ego has been completely canceled out because we're in a society that can't say no. We're in a society of positivism and that positivism is not a good thing. It attens things out and eliminates their aura. I need the aura of things. I need to look at a mountain and see it in a haze because it is far away. I need to see past the tree branch because you look up at in the sky and it’s surrounded by that aura. All of that's been taken away with the digital age and with computers. People are robbed of their whole atmosphere - their whole aura – their own history. All of that's been attened out. The whole idea of the computer is a attening out of society. It's a attening out of information. It's all butted up against each other. It's all very much the Same. In fact you could even quote it as same with capital S.” - PJC, 2016



“All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.� - W.B Yeats on Belfast, Easter 1916



“I'll show you. I'll burn my own house down. I was a terrible, terrible student. It was dreadful – it was so boring. Rather than being an exhibit, I joined in.” - PJC, 2016



stain of truth



“So there are ways of testing space, no space, time, non time. It's the same thing if you think you're too thin or too small or too tall or whatever. The moment you become self conscious, everything changes...everything changes. The tension in the room. The relationships between you and perfect strangers. The tension that creates is immense and it is a real pressure. Real or imagined - it’s real for you. When you paint you can't have all that baggage. There is a way of actually unloading all that stuff. You've got to really see, but you have to see in a time and a space, you've got to go through that window. That wrent in the time space continuum – whatever the hell it's called...hell quantum physics, fractal mathematics – you name it – the zero point eld. You can call it a million different things, but, art is still necessary and it's a place you can go that exists. And it's real and it's there and when you see the evidence of it on the walls and you come to it and you feel something in your heart - and you look at it and you have the AHA. And once you have that AHA – it's real.” - PJC, 2016



“You can start with beauty and by adding to it, you can build a catalogue. Then you build that catalogue into a novel and then into a library – that is the thing. That's grace almost. That's living in a state of grace – to see more and more and more beauty – that's acceptance. That's really how we should live, I think.” - PJC, 2016



“I was born and raised near shipyards. I wandered about those things. An aircraft factory was right down from where I was born and I used to hear the jets coming over so I painted airplanes. And I painted ships and you know it began and it released a fuse.� - PJC, 2016





“But even more heavenly than the ashing stars are those innite eyes which the night opens within us, and which see further even than the palest of those innumerable hosts.” - Novalis, Hymns to the Night, 1772-1801



“He says NO! In thunder; but the Devil himself cannot make him say yes.� - Herman Melville on Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851





“When you look at my older work from 15 or 20 years ago, you see that I have now realized the hypocrisy of a solid surface. To break through that surface you have to begin to inspect the process of painting. How does it go on the canvas – and is it in the sequential order? It's no different than chemistry or physics or mathematics. All of it boils down to a formula and you have to find a common denominator, you have to approach it from different ends.” - PJC, 2016






I recently came to know Paul James Cunningham and his work. In the second week of opening Untitled 2.0, Paul and his wife Barbara happened by. He says he looked left while driving south on Sixth Street in the heart of historic downtown Grants Pass Oregon and thought an alien ship had landed. Such was his - and the general population's reaction to an art gallery in our small town. Our opening exhibit included two artists: Paul Silas Trapp and Timothy Weldon. The space is well lit and visually captivating for its spare simplicity in a sea of well-stocked shops. A brief conversation regarding the references to Richard Diebenkorn in Trapp's art led to the revelation that Paul had been a studio assistant to Diebenkorn late in the Bay Area artist's career. From there, an inquiry about Paul's own work and a quick viewing of some cell phone photos followed. I was hooked. I scheduled an appointment for the following Monday, postponed it until Tuesday and finally arrived at his home and studio to view his work in person. As I sat down in his library, Paul paraded the small paintings in front of me...one by one...on a black background perched on a bright yellow easel. About three paintings in, I got up from my chair and zoomed in on the image. The details I had seen from across the room disappeared before my eyes. I was mesmerized. It was magic. They didn't just seem to disappear - they disappeared. As it turns out, this disappearing act is an apt metaphor for Paul's youth and his original impetus to paint.

Much like opening Untitled 2.0 in Grants Pass – unplanned, unexpected and launched in less than a fortnight - my decision to show Paul's work was made standing in the gallery with him, his wife Barbara and his cell phone pictures. Viewing the work in person was a formality. Printing the catalogue was inevitable. Extending the show from December, 2016 through January, 2017 a foregone conclusion (my first two month exhibit, my first catalogue). Decisions about the exhibit were made with little thought and simple trust in gut reactions and intuition. “If we do it quick enough, without overthinking it, we might not screw it up,” Paul said. Committing to exhibit an artist's work is a courtship of sorts. It usually takes place over a relatively lengthy period of time as details are negotiated and artwork is created and edited and hung and lit. Announcements are printed and mailed and as opening night approaches, it's like preparing to say, “I do,” without the in-laws and the cake. Paul and I eloped (with Barbara along for the ride) within a week of meeting and viewing and saying, “We will.” I still haven't looked back. Getting to know Paul and sifting through his history and spending time with his paintings has been one of my richest life experiences. The idea of an exhibition lasting from December through January means ending one year with Paul and his work and beginning the next year with them as well. December is arguably the most melancholic of months - apropos for the work. The rebirth associated with January is dichotomically emblematic of the complex nature of Paul's paintings as well. 92

I know for a fact that Paul would prefer that I not include most of the details of our conversations. The information was offered up on deep background; off the record, so to speak. If you're reading this he acquiesced and let me tell my version of his story. We are all born at a specific point in time and in a specific geographic location. These biographical details are - in no small measure - part of who we are and the person we become. Paul was born in Belfast, North Ireland in the 1950's. He was an only child. His maternal grandparents were relatively wealthy and his mother was a beautiful woman with a fashion show on the BBC and a sense of style. His father painted prior to marrying his mother, but set any artistic ambitions aside as he worked in the family fashion businesses. His father documented the family travels and family vacations with photographs. Solitude was a constant for Paul as a child. He sat up late at night, listening in on family business meetings. He had one nanny after another but was close to none of them. He drew pictures. His artwork was a diversion from his role as an accessory in his parents' life. His father called him The Great Escape Artist. He escaped alright, even in the middle of the room he escaped into his art. He was sent to private schools in an effort to keep him from developing an Irish accent - he was a Protestant in a Catholic Nation in the midst of a religious sectarian war. He rebelled; and was sent to public school where his pictures were held up before his classmates as examples of good work. His life as an exhibiting artist had begun. Paul and his family (mother, father, grandmother &

grandfather) escaped Ireland as the violence between Catholic & Protestant escalated. Once members of the upper crust, they arrived in the United States with little else than the desire to start over. At 29, Paul scraped together enough money to enroll at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California to study painting. Faculty members included Harry Carmean, Mike Kelly and Lita Albuquerque. His talent was recognized immediately and rewarded. Several instructors became the first to acquire his work for their private collections. There were no shortages of conflict in Paul's life – a child of bucolic upbringing in Ireland, through his teens and violent tendencies, to his arrival in California and his early education as a painter. Though he had arranged to do master's work with Gerard Richter, Paul ran out of money and had to drop out of school with a bachelor's degree. Through family contacts, he began work as a set dresser in Hollywood. One of his first films was Marathon Man in 1976. His last was Ender's Game in 2013. During his nearly 40 years in the movie business, Paul continued to paint and exhibit. His paintings were strong and the galleries exhibiting his work were reputable. He did paintings for sets, some of which were purchased by actors, directors and film technicians. He tells of two opportunities in his life to obtain serious wealth, but chose not to make the compromises required. A stint back in Ireland proved lucrative but paintings of the local landscape veered too close to historic landscape painters for Paul's own comfort. Once again, he rebelled. After ignoring his art for several years, a Christmas card he painted for Barbara reignited his desire to paint. The simple watercolor of a desert scene - not your usual Christmas subject matter! - felt good. From that, the work comprising 93

his solo exhibition at Untitled 2.0 emerged.

make up any place or person.

Paul began to paint again in earnest. He paints from photographs, often from his father's snapshots of locations familiar to his youth: shipyards in Ireland, views of the seashore from the Island nation, smokestacks on the rivers' shores, views of the River Thames and London.

It is the stillness in the air that Paul renders with minimal brushstrokes. Stillness in the air, growing clouds in the sky, full on raging of a storm replete with wind and rain and sleet and snow and the eerie afterness of nature's recovery from such an onslaught. Paul aims to represent the entire storm and its storminess in what the painting now is.

The fact that Paul's paintings bear any resemblance to these photographs or the places in them is secondary to the ultimate goal. Paul is not painting landscapes. He is painting memories...melancholia. He paints what might have been, and only rarely what actually was. His work is elusive, as are his memories. He is painting the past that never was, the past he longs for and continues to feel pangs for now. His goal is to get out of the way of the paintings emerging on linen in front of him. A painting is done in an hour or two or not at all. He is as surprised as anyone when the painting works and devastated when it doesn't...though he may deny it. Paul says the paintings reveal themselves through tertiary viewing – a minimum of three viewings – one close up, one from a distance and one mid-range to absorb their essence. Details that appear specific and bewildering in their immediacy disappear completely as you approach the surface of the painting and then reappear as you back away. The search for an exhibit and catalogue title suggested: "These are NOT landscape paintings." Clearly, they are...but only in a shallow and superficial sense. In the way you might call the Godfather films movies about gangsters - well yes, yet no, not really. The subject matter of the paintings has an intangible sense of time and place; an aura created by the indescribably complicated mix of elements that

His paintings demonstrate inadequacy of language and lack of categorization in art to properly classify his work. Is there a place for paintings that create a longing so palpable as to silence viewers as they recall their homeland? Paul's work captures youth, ripening exuberance and lost attempts to retain what slips away into yesterday and the far reaches of one's memory. He refers to his final paintings as retaining the stain of truth and strives for a permeation of memory and experience as the true goal. His works fall into two categories: weather & industry. The last painting finished for this exhibit and catalogue is a hybrid of the two categories, a monumental painting of London after a snowstorm. It weaves together elements of the storm and the intrusion of man on the landscape with his bridges and buildings and roads. Some who have seen it believe it to be a vision of London during WWII. I told Paul after receiving a texted photo of the completed painting that it appeared simultaneously post-apocalyptic and pastorale. He responded, “the acts of men are worthy of neither fire nor Heaven.” The industry paintings include shipyards, painted mainly from historic photographs. Two of the most haunting industry paintings are aerial views of the shipyards in Clydebank, Scotland during the building of the Queen Mary. Paul and I have had no discussions about these 94

paintings of the Queen Mary, but a cursory search of her history and my familiarity with Paul and his history and philosophies on life and painting have informed my immediate read on what these paintings are about. Without any input from Paul – my take on the back story of these paintings follows: Paul's fascination with this particular ship likely has as much to do with his own personal history of growing up near shipyards as it does with the history of the ship. The Queen Mary's original construction by the Cunard line as a luxury liner was stalled early on by the Great Depression. It was later commissioned into naval service as the Grey Ghost in WWII. The monstrous ship disappeared into the ocean mist with its cargo of 16,000 troops (not unlike Paul's disappearing act as he drew pictures in his youth). The absurdity of the Queen Mary's current Long Beach, California location and its website's description of the once grand ship as a “floating Hotel, Attraction and Event & Wedding Venue, home to three world-class restaurants and an icon in Southern California,” has surely not gone unnoticed - or undocumented - by Paul. In no small way, his modest paintings of the ship's origins are an attempt to restore her dignity and place in history. He intuits the plight of the Queen Mary and paints the ship in her youth as a way of subconsciously conjuring up his own early history. He paints nostalgia and remembrance with a fully rounded grasp of the psychic order of things. In a typical modern biography, a baby is born and adored, grows through infancy and adolescence into young adulthood and at the apex of physical development (in wartime) is put into service as a soldier. Youthful idealism is replaced with the stark truth of conflict. Even after returning to civilian life the stain of war remains and informs

adulthood, parenthood and the twighlighting of a complex and often contradictory life. Taking a photo or painting a portrait of an elderly person is as futile as an attempt at telling the Queen Mary's story through a single image – yet, Paul rages through and captures the stain of truth about the Queen Mary's aura. Her dignity and ultimate ridiculousness are inseparable. Depicting the life of a ship as an allegorical exercise is a way of revealing his own history without letting on that nearly all - if not all - of his paintings are autobiographical. They are as much about him as anything, whether intentional or not. Paul is warm, approachable, funny. He is hardworking and has achieved much in life. He has traveled widely and read a good deal of great literature. His library is not just books on shelves. Most are first editions and he has read each of the books wrapping two walls in his home. Not coincidentally, he often photographs his paintings leaning against these books. His wife Barbara provides good company and admits, “I'd be bored with anyone else.” Paul has a bad boy streak, tamed by the years but still in evidence and surreptitiously cultivated. His body is wracked from injuries on Hollywood sets, motorcycle crashes and bar brawls. Paul is a thinker...and a doer. When asked about his references or inspirations, he relates the infamous story of Whistler and his defamation lawsuit against John Ruskin for stating publicly that he “never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face.” Whistler defended not only his reputation, but the concept that beauty and the end result is comparable (in monetary terms) to important, academic paintings by artists trained to 95

spend years completing a masterpiece. This upended the historic notion of what made a painting valuable and ignited the conversation about the commoditization of painting at a heady time when the Grosvenor Gallery – one of the first commercial galleries - was forming in England. A conversation about Whistler and his nocturnes leads to Commodity Fetishism and Karl Marx's theories about the subjective nature of value in commodities. The thread that connects Whistler and Marx to the work of Paul James Cunningham is clear when articulated by Paul, but it requires focus to retrace the steps of the conversation that started with an inquiry into his references and inspirations. Another of the working titles for Paul's exhibit and catalogue was “Fetishist Paintings.” This was based partly on the Marxist philosophy of commodities and partly on the Victorian definition of a fetish without the sexualizing of the word brought about by Sigmund Freud's writings. For Paul, the fetish is the paint. Paint is the object of an inordinate amount of his affection...a fetish in the religious form of the word, representing true devotion. Devotion to paint and truth and essence and memory. Paul's painting process led to, yet another, working title: “Anti-Academic Paintings.” The academic process of painting derives from the European art academies and their philosophies and traditions. Not only were academic paintings supposed to be historic in content or allegorical, they were painted using a formalized, structured technique. First the background was painted and then the construction of the painting moved forward toward the front of the canvas. Paul's paintings are constructed in reverse order – not unlike a reverse painting on glass. Reverse glass painting requires a

highly skilled craftsman to put the foreground objects and details in first and then work backwards until the overall background or backdrop completes the puzzle. Paul's process is reductive. An atypically negative manner of constructing art. First he paints those parts of the picture that are closest to the viewer - typically the foreground then he cuts into the linen with paint to reveal the far away portions of the painting. He describes the process as a putting together and tearing apart of the subject matter to arrive at the final work. This system of applying paint results in the effect I described earlier, of viewing the piece from across the room and then moving closer to watch its details disappear before my eyes and then reappear as I back away. It is a magic act. I've never seen this brand of magic before. To experience it in person is an astonishment. This essay is the direct opposite of what I intended to write, but typing out a dry academic paper in support of the least academic painter I know felt counter intuitive. Paul's paintings get under your skin. He is present in every brush stroke of each painting. My hope is that he would become present to those viewing his work in this catalogue and to those patient enough to read my wholehearted but ultimately inadequate words. His reluctance to have me share our unedited conversations is - in part - a defensive reaction to the obvious charges of pretentiousness and hubris. Who talks about their work like this? Who refers to Whistler and Marx and Freud to describe what is clearly a group of straightforward landscapes...or are they? It would only be pretentious to speak of transcendence and 96

aura and permeation and essence and stain of truth if an artist were posing. Paul is an anti-poser; he is pursuing a body of work with authenticity at its core. He is genuine, if nothing else. If Paul doesn't achieve transcendence, if the paintings are landscapes and not much else, if they don't achieve some form of lift, he hacks them up. I've seen him do it. I wish I could write the way Paul paints. To pull him apart and put him back together in this essay would be revelatory. To accurately represent him as The Great Escape Artist would lead to a more complex understanding of his ambitions and give a better metric with which to judge his paintings.

DeWayne Thomas Lumpkin untitled 2.0


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“The earth makes a sound as of sighs and the last drops fall from the emptied cloudless sky. A small boy, stretching out his hands and looking up at the blue sky, asked his mother how such a thing was possible. Fuck off, she said.� - Samuel Beckett

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“Art, they say, exists in order that we may not perish from reality. That reality for me has been an overwhelming sense of loss, a loss culled perhaps from a collective sense that life has been appearing and disappearing here forever. I have been painting the Irish Landscapes for nearly 40 years, mostly in self-imposed exile. In the US I painted large brooding aerial cityscapes with small patches of light dispersed sparingly across the dark depeopled landscape. Today, I still nd myself without the interruption of individual personalities in my work, preferring to make room for the male and female interplay between fencepost and earth, church, steeple and sky. Expressing a degree of anxiety in a gentle manipulation of forced perspective, pushing the viewer across the elds to an optimism inherent in an horizon, only to be turned back by rain soaked clouds. Alternatively the use of severe cropping gives an ineluctable comparison between man made objects and the nature they reect.

‘Language,' Flaubert wrote, 'is like beating out time on a cracked pot for the bears to dance to, when all the while we want to move the stars to pity.'

Art and the thing represented there, fall under the same impossible spell.” ~ PAUL JAMES CUNNINGHAM


PAUL JAMES CUNNINGHAM Born Belfast 1953 EDUCATION 1972/73 Glendale College, Glendale, CA 1982/86 Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena, CA Bachelors of Fine Art awarded with distinction AWARDS AND HONOURS 1970 General Electric United Kingdom Award for Painting 1971 Lady Dorothy Shannon Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist, United Kingdom 1986 Art Center College of Design 'Visiting Artist Teaching Scholarship’ The Carol Lewis Memorial Scholarship Award 1989 2nd Place Prize, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art Biennial, Monterey, CA 1989 Certicate of Excellence in Painting from 'Artitudes' 7th International Art Exhibition, New York, NY REVIEWS AND MAGAZINE ITEMS 1985 Full length video interview for Art Centre College of Design. Visiting Artists Series 1989 The Herald Review of Biennial Exhibition, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art 1990 Village Voice Review - 'Realist Landscapes' at Ariel Gallery, Dec ‘90 Soho, New York 1994 American Artist Magazine, 'The Gentle Melancholy of Trees' – June Issue 1994 Alta Vista Magazine, Cunningham: 'Trees as Life Metaphors’ 1995 American Artist Magazine feature 'Understanding Copyright Laws’ 1998 Irish Show, The Patterson Gallery, London


SOLO SHOW 2016/17 Untitled 2.0 - "Proto-Fetishist Paintings," - Grants Pass, OR GROUP SHOWS 2008 Feingold Gallery, West Hills, CA 2008 Haziza H1 Gallery, Sun Valley, CA 2001 The James Gallery, Bangor, North Ireland 2000 Bonita Cawker - Warrack Gallery, Belfast, North Ireland 1999 The Leinster Gallery, Dublin, Ireland 1999 The Apollo Gallery, Dublin, Ireland 1999 The James Gallery, Bangor, North Ireland 1998/99 Bonita Cawker - Warrack Gallery, Belfast, North Ireland 1998 Waterfront Gallery, Belfast, North Ireland 1997 The Elaine Somers Gallery - 'Christmas Show' - Hollywood, Northern Ireland 1997 The Elaine Somers Gallery - 'Four Irish Artists' - Belfast, Ireland 1996/97 The Elaine Somers Gallery, Belfast, Ireland 1996 Wineld Gallery - 'Summer Landscape Show' - Carmel, CA 1995/96 Wineld Gallery, Carmel, CA 1995 Horwitch Newman Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ 1995 Horwitch Newman Gallery - 'New Realism Show' - Scottsdale, AZ 1994 Louis Newman Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA 1994 Redding Art Museum of Art - 'Landscape Show' - Redding, PA 1994 Riverside Museum of Art - 'Trees' - Riverside, CA 1993 Louis Newman Gallery - 'Points of View' - Beverly Hills, CA


GROUP SHOWS CONTINUED 1993 Monterey County Museum of Art - 'Contemporary Realism Central and Northern California Landscapes' - Monterey, CA 1993 Ariel Gallery - 'Industrial Landscapes' - New York, NY 1991 Monterey County Museum of Art - California Biennial Exhibition - Monterey, CA’ 1989 Pacic Grove Art Centre - Annual Juried Members Show - Pacic Grove, CA 1989 Seventh International Art Competition, New York, NY 1987 Art Centre College of Design - 'Former Students Exhibition' - Pasadena, CA 1986 Corporate Arts Consultants Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA 1985 Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art - 'Eight X Eight Show' - Los Angeles, CA CORPORATE AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS David R. Brown, President, Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena, CA, Corporate Collection Paul Hauge, The Hauge Company Design Consultants, Los Angeles, CA, Corporate Collection Murray Cohen, President, USA Schools, Los Angeles, CA, Corporate Collection Redding Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Permanent Collection, Redding, PA Pat and Edgar Russell, Hollywood, Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Electricity PLC, Corporate Collection, Belfast, Ireland Department of the Environment Collection of Stormont, Belfast, Ireland


Colour Plates in Order of Appearance All paintings are oil and beeswax on mounted linen Completed between 2015 and 2016 10” X 14” 10”X 14” 9.5” X 13” 9.5” X 13” 10” X 14” 10” X 14” 8” X 12” 8” X 11.5” 8.25” X 16” 6” X 11.25” 8” X 18” 10” X 18” 12” X 27” 8” X 18” 10” X 24” 8” X 24” 4.5” X 12” 8” X 25.5” 8.25” X 27” 8” X 22.75” 8” X 23.5”

7” X 25” 8” X 25.5” 3.25” X 11.75” 12” X 27” 8” X 25.5” 7.25” X 26.5” 8” X 23.5” 4.5” X 13” 8” X 13” 8” X 23.5” 15” X 20” 8” X 25” 11.25” X 24” 8” X 18” 7” X 27” 5” X 23.5” 11.5” X 19” 10” X 25.5” 72” X 80” 60” X 60”





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