Paul Boston Essay

Published Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Similar to the cubist painter at the beginning of the 20th century Boston explores the aesthetics of camouflage in his paintings and drawings. As with the aim of analytical cubism with the object depicted appearing and disappearing within the picture-plane, Boston is interested in the interchangeability of form and space.

Image: Untitled No.3, 62 x 56cm; gouache on paper; 1999

Paul Boston - Untitled No.3

I've been using a lot of these shapes for a long time and I continue to introduce more and find new configurations for them, but they always have to have this balance between a high level of interchangeability and an instability due to that high level on interchangeability and also at the same time, this rather classical, serene composure and stillness. I'm working between these two dichotomies.

He is interested in creating works that impel a sense of meditation for the viewer, what Boston calls a contemplative presence, which refers to the psychological and physical recognition of the work constructing a personal empathy with the viewer through his art. Boston?s morphology is abstract but he maintains a sense of recognition in the shaping of the forms. It is the development of these personal emblems that conveys the thoughts and feelings of the artist to the viewer. His art establishes a human communicability in which the shapes and forms come to mean many things to different viewers.

His paintings and drawings reflect careful consideration to tone and a refinement towards the fabrication of forms. His art explores the process of perception, being self critical about his own activity and intrigued by the way meaning is stabilised in abstract art. This is reflected in his philosophy to number and date his work rather than give titles which handicaps the autonomy of the artwork in terms of the perception of meaning construed by the viewer.

By Craig Malyon

Questions on the Artist

  • In terms of art practice compare the aims of the historical art movement cubism (Picasso and Braque) with the aims of Paul Boston. Draw up a table of similarities and differences making reference to cultural concerns.
  • What does Boston mean by the phrase "contemplative presence" for describing how the viewer engages with his artworks? Can you list other artists that communicate to the audience in a similar way?
  • What is an emblem? How does this relate to Boston's practice?
  • In your own words give an account of how Boston would produce a painting.

Artists Connections

Historical Contemporary
Piet Mondrian Debra Dawes
Pablo Picasso Savanhdrary Vongpoothorn
El Lissitsky Marion Borgelt
Kazimir Malevich Helga Groves
Alberto Giacometti Hiarie Mais
Jean Arp Judith Wright
Sol Le Witt Howard Taylor

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