The sky was dense with rain clouds. To the left, my view was framed peripherally by black tree branches and to the right a wall, hard-edged in silhouette. I focused on the in-between - a pale grey void... subtle... sometimes a slight pinkish hue at others a cooler, chalky blue. The void buzzed electrically... Tiny particles flickered - off/on, dark/light, black/white. On closer examination these spots seemed to be embedded in a surrounding field of smaller, black and white linear circles. These too flickered, rotated and alternated, but at a faster pace. Occasionally, small droplets of rain fell gently on my skin... A vision of excited phosphenes throbbed and popped with each interruption.1
Phosphenes are spots in front of the eyes. Like after-images, they are also products of our visual neurobiology. Anyone can see them, use them or ignore them. They are involuntary and purely human. Like CDs they have circularity...
The After Image exhibition evolved from experimentation. Paul constructed an elaborate colour palette, derived from a large series of paintings that he loosely called colour by word (ColourXWord) which developed as a system for blending colours from colour words in various languages. The unexpected products of this were the optical sensations and after-image effects of the placement of these colours on a contrasting white ground.
As with all the works in this show, Phosphenia was constructed according to Paul’s painting template. Films of paint overlay the marks, folds and shapes of their predecessors. In a delicate removal of production from thoughtful representation, the paintskin gesture overturns the conceit of surface and consciousness. But if the process is a distancing from western perspective, the knowledges that form it – for example mathematics, philosophy, biology, physics, poetry, history – invest the painting like spells. Text and diagrammatic images are layered into the surface. Like builders’ instructions, in successful execution they fade into the background. It is not necessary for them to be revealed for the object to possess some capacity or effect that is somehow determined by them. Or perhaps instead as soup ingredients, they blend together to ensure both fluidity and consumption.
In the Psycle series, there seems to be an interplay between the very surface of the painting and a sense that something is happening behind its skin. The paintings are telescoped, dream-gazer affairs. Imagine a view of something beyond terrestrial – peering past galaxy dust into space beyond, or instead from high-above clouds into secret cities and landscapes. Orientation is trumped by ambiguity, but in a magical way. The painting works from a distance, but close inspection reveals tiny marks, stitches and scratches, dashes and arrows; beacons drawing my eye into the painting. They promise directions, instructions, reference points but seem to lead nowhere, into a surface that is both overhead and underneath. Desire here has no specific object that cannot be transformed if needed. The paintings turn out like this, an insinuation of the process.
Perphoria is so-named for its play on the idea of perforation – a surface of tears, pinpricks and scratches. A product of folding, unfolding and making holes in the paintskin; its symmetries are created and obliterated by adhesion and dislocation. White drips trace vague shapes of ancient hands. Black holes suggest the void, rivulets deny the surface its gravity and orientation. Underneath... Gargas, Chauvet, Cosquer.2 They might also trace the nervous system...
These paintings are as sleep with intense light trained upon the eye, the spots, lines and blobs dancing in the lid; linking, merging, disappearing cool and bright, a secret world of visions. In the end they are just compositions of paint, abstraction and ambiguity, yet they also mean to juxtapose sought after universalities with troubling difference, to abide the tension of never possessing the ‘truth’ of either. Everyone has the facility to access these images but we can’t know if we see them the same way.
Kirsty Hammet, March 2010
1 Paul Hoban, painting notes. Adelaide January 2008.
2 See Clottes, J. & Caurtan, J (1996): Cosquer, The Cave Beneath the Sea Abrams, NY
Clottes, J. (2003): Chauvet Cave: The Art of the Earliest Times Utah University Press, USA
Aujoulat, N (2005) Lascaux, Movement, Space and Time Abrams, NY