4MAL 2003




An inveterate traveller and reader, Paul Hoban's paintings are encoded with a plethora, a complexity of cross-cultural references and multi-layered allusions. A less than exhaustive inventory might include African tribal chants, cave paintings, mathematical formulae, sacred diagrams specific to certain societies within indigenous Australian, African and Carribean cultures, urban graffiti and knot theory. Research into theoretical areas of philosophy, psychology and cultural anthropology is ongoing and in particular Hoban is drawn to African and Christian iconology and the Nigerian 'Ife' cult, which has influenced the religious and cultural life of Brazil and the Caribbean. More recently the focus has fallen on Neolithic sites in England and Ireland and cave paintings in the Dordogne and northern Spain.

Hoban's process is an intriguing one of reversal; painting onto plastic 'skins' on the studio floor - which may bear residual traces of previous paintings - the back-to-front work is then transferred onto canvas. Thus, as he claims, "the self-conscious subject, the refined, the reduced, the 'finished,' the 'autonomous' surface is overthrown." By such means, Hoban is able to frustrate anticipation, deftly obviating the possibility of an aesthetically determined outcome. Through the exposure of all that is habitually concealed, he interpolates a seductive element of the unpredictable into what is otherwise an essentially controlled and therefore self-conscious process.

The gold, violet, green and black vertical panels of CD (2003) signal a shift from the earlier symbiotic diptyches like Letter-Virus (Levi-Elvis) (1999) or Even (2000). Through a straightforward, vertical partitioning of surface, the formerly discrete panels have become incorporated into a single, autonomous work. Text in the form of fragments of poetry, incantations, litanies et al is strewn across many of the works with an obsessive intensity, that alternates with a more awkward and skewed restraint (CD (2003))

The act of material transfer/displacement from paintskin to canvas exists as a metaphor for Hoban's most consuming preoccupation - the blend and blur, the syncretism of cultures. Tread (1999) provides a representative example; a profusion of white bracket-like markings on a dark purple, almost black ground was inspired by an African divination ritual, but as the title of the painting indicates these patternings also evoke the eccentric use of brackets by French avant-garde writer Raymond Roussel. In such works Hoban begins to move towards a visual resolution of his primary objective, which he refers to as "the reconciliation of the 'archaic' and ‘modern. "

Wendy Walker, January 2003