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Paul Powis

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If Paul Powis’s art was available on your TV screen rather than more typically on canvas, then you’d demand the remote control, just so you could immediately adjust the contrast setting. Or perhaps fettle the brightness control. Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with the celebrated contemporary landscape artist’s habitual use of such draconian hues and saturations, it’s just that they might damage your retinas after a while. But that’s probably because we’re ultra-sensitive to bright lights, and anyway, Powis’s paintings won’t literally be in your face or as up close and personal as a TV set tends to be. From a safe distance (i.e., hanging on a wall on the far side of your room) you won’t have a problem with the colours. And if you do, just balance this with how much you’ll save on electricity.

Taken under the wing of one of the country’s most respected fine art publishers in 1999, Powis’s working relationship with Washington Green has gone from strength to strength ever since, seeing the reproduction of nine original, now limited edition silk-screen prints in the meantime, whilst also witnessed his hallmark compositions featured prominently in over twenty books during this same period. Described as being rich in subjective colouration (clearly) and vibrant mark-making (you don’t say) by contemporary art industry experts over the years, Powis chooses to adopt an overtly abstract and representational way in which to work his compositional pieces. The hugely popular artist painstakingly pores over the illustrative rhythmic structures of trees and foliage which populate his graphically heightened landscapes it’s said, successfully determining the dynamic and visually harmonic sweeps and sways indicative of nature’s perpetually unfolding story itself, which pitches his finished pictorial articles in a resolutely ordered and balanced fashion.

Taking a step back in time, we learn that Powis attended Birmingham’s College of Art and Design in the late 1960s, where he studied for an Art Foundation qualification, before heading to England’s south coast and rolling up at Brighton’s Polytechnic so as to complete his higher art education by obtaining a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in the early part of the 1970s. Seizing the moment, Powis then set his creative sights on becoming an abstract artist, only somewhere down the line this changed to him instead focusing on pursuing an art educating career. As an art lecturer, Powis then spent the next 25 years concentrating on this both in and around London and elsewhere, at further education establishments throughout Britain; culminating latterly in his tutoring swansong at Lancaster’s University of Central England where he passed on his (now) considerable experience and knowledge in the applied discipline of Drawing and Painting.

The ‘experience’ element came courtesy of Powis having beavered away behind the 9 – 5 career scenes for the best part of the aforementioned 25 years for his own ends, as the creation and manifestation of his own, personal art remained his first love as it were. On this note, Powis had as it materialises presented his own landscaped craft at exhibitions, galleries and museums far and wide throughout his lecturing career, pretty much from the 1970s onwards, and witnessed his back catalogue of art being the star attraction at such prestigious art-primed venues as the Mall Galleries, the Royal College of Art, the Royal Festival Hall and the Medici Gallery. Building a national and international following as a result, Powis’s work is equally well received in America as much as it is here in his native Britain, as well as elsewhere across the world.

It might be argued however that Powis’s finest illustrative hour – or at least, greatest exposure directly relating to his artistic skillset – came with a little help from, of all people, a globally-renown manufacturer of family cars. In one of their most iconic TV ads (which they were synonymous with during the award-winning 80s and 90s), VW showcased one of Powis’s paintings, entitled ‘Rape’ as part of the visual furniture to a particular ad of the day; thus ensuring the artist’s work going mainstream. With interest in Powis’s work soaring after this unprecedented exposure, he was even invited to exhibit his art at the Museum of Modern Illustration in New York. Now no stranger to industry recognitions, in addition to this Powis has seen a large percentage of his recent compositional pieces being routinely shown in the ‘Best of British Illustration’ exhibition over the last decade.

Inspiration-wise, and given the very nature (and nature) of his peerless abstract landscapes, travel to foreign soil has been key to influencing Powis’s art in retrospect; and specifically to mainland Europe which has given rise to many of the enduring artist’s pivotal landscape studies, with aspects and elements of typically French, Italian and Spanish rural vistas found at the core of his canvases. Aside from continental Europe, Powis has also been fortunate enough to take in the sights of the United States and Mexico, which again can be discovered in a selection of his individual pieces and collections. Nowadays, and reflecting his more immediate surrounds, Powis’s landscapes echo much of Worcestershire life and times, whilst there remains timely nods to a previous life spent in both London and Wiltshire too. In terms of actual artists whose work has influenced him at various junctures, the Powis cites the likes of Balthus, Corot, Hopper, Matisse, Mondrian, Picasso and Sisley.