Paul P.

Born 1977 in Canada.

Paul P. has been known since the early 2000s for his intimate paintings depicting young men with a contemporary and pop cultural air, yet painted in an opaque palette of glazed oil coloration “in a manner compatible with late nineteenth century aesthetic work of J. McN. Whistler, J.S. Sargent and Proust.” These portraits have been taken from gay subcultural magazines dating back to the particularly transient period of the 1970s after the liberating aftermath of the Stonewall riots and up to the dawn of the AIDS crisis.

Paul P. grew into adolescence when the AIDS crisis had reached its most devastating point. For his generation awakening sexuality was inevitably associated with the experience of death. With the rise of his artistic practice Paul P. became interested in archiving faces, portraying things on the cusp of change, in particular the young men from vintage erotic magazines of the pre-AIDS time “when all the traps were set”. [1]

At times the male figures in Paul P.s’ work – giving their near transcendent appearances throughout his highly accomplished paintings, drawings, drypoint etchings, lithographs and pastels – share the look of saints or martyrs. Asked about his interest in the English literary world between the wars – the milieu of W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Nancy Mitford and the ‘Bright Young People’ in London – Paul P. refers to the phenomenon that some of these mostly gay writers found an aesthetic refuge in the church and Christianity.

In a similar way one could say that Paul P. – a gifted writer in his own right – finds refuge in the worlds of “past lives lived”, while it is his conviction that bringing past moments into the present can be a radical impulse.

“The figures in my work – anonymous and interchangeable – are caught in the moment of change, when they are successfully removed from their context, freed from degradation. Sometimes there is a need for continuation. I am searching for analogies and the touching of hands between the past and the presence.”[2]

Recently Paul P. has introduced a significant extension to his work with life drawings in ink made from 19th century sculptures in the Musée D’Orsay and the Metropolitan Museum – a bust of a bacchante or a satyr – or made en plein air in Venice and its contemporary pendant Venice Beach.

“I developed an archive of the city, as rigorous and careful as my archive of faces and bodies drawn. I see the desire that typified my earlier work as being transferred to these landscapes, or architectural details. I see sex and clandestine exchanges being intrinsic to Venice and all of its shapes, and perhaps to all of my work. The quality of travel, of movement, leads to the ink drawings.

Another new agent in Paul P.’s work are his furniture pieces inspired by pioneering British 19th century designer and architect E. W. Godwin. Paul P.’s ultra delicate mahogany tables and desks are functional to a certain extent while belonging to the realm of minimally mannerist sculpture inserted into a spatial situation as part of the artist’s growing interest in an all-encompassing interior design for an exhibition space.

“The furniture is bound to my practice somewhat freely, attaching itself to literature and aestheticism and in that process alluding to certain lives lived, in the case of the desk sculpture Escritoire Nancy, so called because it was designed to be occupied by Nancy Mitford, one of the famous Mitford sisters, who, through the sharp polarity of their good and evil ways, seem to have touched everything that came to define the last century.”[3]




2014 Paul P., BROADWAY 1602, NY

2013 Ecritoire Nancy, Andrew Roth, NY

2012 The ‘X’ Factor in Beholding, Tempo Rubato, Tel Aviv

2011 Dry Neptune, Massimo Minini, Brescia

2010 Sherbert in Demascus, Daniel Reich Gallery, New York

2009 Three Parts Glass, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg

2008 When Ghost Meets Ghost, Maureen Paley, London

2007 Dusks, Lamplights, The Power Plant, Toronto

2006 The Yellow Room, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles

2005 A Grey Note, Gallery Side 2, Tokyo

2003 Last Flowers, Daniel Reich Gallery, New York



2011 Les paris sont ouverts, Freud Museum, London

Compass: drawings from the MoMA, NY / Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

2010 Art on Paper 2010, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro

2008 Male, White Columns, New York / Presentation House, Vancouver



Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Francis Young Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta

Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton


[1] Paul P. in conversation with Anke Kempkes, Toronto, October 2013

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.