Paul Sharp

I am self taught artist working with oils and canvas. I started painting in 1993 as high school student because I was surrounded by creative people, and I wanted to be like them. I started by painting walls, and moved on to canvasses in university. I headed to Japan after graduation; instead of dropping the habit I became increasingly passionate about painting and continued studying techniques and ideas in non academic settings. I took part in some Japanese shows, and then came back to Canada where I’ve continued spending my time developing as an artist and taking part in exhibitions.

Many of my paintings suppose that a catastrophic incident has occurred, a natural disaster, war or societal collapse, a situation that has fractured communities and isolated the characters I paint. I start many of my paintings on foot, searching for a background site that evokes within me strong feeling. After finding a location I photograph the site, then, in my studio, I try to imagine what it was about the space that affected me, and create characters to interact with the location in a way that captures that mood. I work with many reference photos, including specific details I’ve discovered in my travels that will help me create the illusion and feeling I’m looking for.

In my most recent paintings...

The kernel of these paintings was planted years ago, after I visited a village that had been destroyed by a tsunami. Nothing remained but shells of buildings, rubble and repaved roads. The absence of people didn’t seem strange. In fact, when on a newly paved road two students crossed into view, I couldn’t imagine anyone existing in such a place; where might people be heading in such a landscape? While still surrounded by a built environment, people simply didn’t belong in such locations. After calamity people’s lives obviously go on, but witnessing survivors interacting with the scene of destruction was a more powerful experience than I expected. It was also a very mysterious feeling. Not only was I unable to imagine how the kids felt, I also couldn’t imagine how they spent their lives with the backdrop of their existence gone. With so many possible forms of devastation being wrought on places around the globe, and talked about in the media, I started to think about, and paint, how individuals would continue to go on when everything around them had stopped.

My character paintings...

I’m jaded by the way fantastic people position themselves and pretend they’re normal, then advertise the deceit with photos on Christmas cards and Facebook. My paintings depict unique individuals who don’t enjoy the responsibility of fitting-in, and suffer because they still try. The characters are tired, grumpy, sad and angry because they’re forced to keep the extraordinary inside. I choose to place my characters in front of chemical plants instead of tourist sites, or bathrooms and piles of garbage in place of beautiful landscapes, because mundane everyday life is where marvelous heroes will eventually make their stand, and I choose to celebrate that.