Sherbert in Damascus
Daniel Reich Gallery is very pleased to present an exhibition of new and never before shown paintings by Paul P. titled Sherbert in Damascus after the David Snow story, evoking historical Northern European travel south in search of pleasure. Hence, in this exhibition P. is persistent in his primary source: 19th century landscape urban and pastoral imagery.
A departure from P.’s previous exhibitions, Sherbert in Damascus is his most persuasive, featuring darkly painted other worldly mysterious works carrying in their shadows and depths an authentic load. It is as though history itself, evoked in displaced and recombined imagery, lurks in dark pools and in the starkly projected shadows of vegetation.
While some works have recognizable sources such as a landscape at Arno, most have the quality of being removed from context so that we inhabit a dreamlike place of uncertainty where scenes merge. For instance an awkward nearly post-impressionist bridge can become, in the imagination, the partly sunlit vision of a roman aqueduct. Frequently there appears to be humidity and closeness to the atmosphere recalling the way that on a hot wet day, ones mind becomes fuzzy. The air itself becomes a form thick enough to touch the objects one perceives from distance, bringing on a sticky feeling of uncomfortable closeness. A chalky white bridge contrasts with a dark background only delineated by smears of color. The dark river flowing beneath seems to suck us through its arc commencing a journey either down stream to emerge in sunlit clarity or into a subterranean underworld. An inverted alabaster head rests on a pillow and while its face is decipherable, it is obscured by damask like haze. Is the head disembodied without a lower body like St. John, or is it is part of a sectioned scene?
The devotional specificity of each P. work is bequeathed by his apostolic name “Paul” derived from Latin, meaning small and humble. Much has been made of his single initial last name stamped with a forceful period. This choice can be likened to the anonymity of medieval literature. A nameless person or place becomes familiar through a recognizable vernacular or penmanship. Could P. be a soul wandering in time? In terms of the noted sensuality of P.’s work, while essential it is a fulcrum with which to lift us into a shadowy suggestion of utopian secrecy. His 19th century landscape seems to lie in wait for world war destruction, invasion, and ravaging; a narrative already foretold by the history of its southern locations. Additionally some of these works were conceived after reading the Tennessee Williams short story The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone in which a personal story of passion ends in destruction against the backdrop of the ancient city, Rome. In this regard while situated in the past, P.’s theme of ruination posses a postmodern, post-apocalyptic character.
Paul P. lives and works in Paris. He has exhibited in Berlin, Paris, London, Toronto, Vienna and Salzburg. His work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, at the Power Plant in Toronto, and at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Naples. His work will be included in the Works on Paper biennial at the Witherspoon Art Museum. Daniel Reich Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 – 6. For additional information please call 212 924 4949.