Paul Boam’s work in the last fifty years has ranged from colourfield abstraction to the tonality of drawing, but the heart of it lies in a transcendent and continuing exploration of Tasmania’s landscape and light.
Paul came to the island in 1963 from England, where he was born in Derbyshire in 1938, and trained at the Nottingham School of Art. He joined the staff of the Tasmanian School of Art in 1964 for which a generation of students, nourished by his example, conversation and insight continue to be grateful.
Although best known for his painting, Paul has always emphasized drawing as essential to his teaching, thought and practice. This reveals itself in the underlying architecture of his paintings, the line, pattern and rhythm which underpin the vibrant immediacy of his colour and brushwork. From his early Quarry series, through the stunning Bathurst Harbour paintings to the recent studies of the East Coast, he enlarges our vision of Tasmania, shows us new ways of seeing the island. His latest landscapes fuse the formal, meditative qualities of abstraction with the freer energies of a lyrical surface. His works are held by The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Tasmania, and in many corporate and private collections around Australia. Jennifer Livett.
I always wanted to be an artist. I drew and painted often and remember discovering a set of compasses at my grandparents, hours of complex patterns were produced!
I was often ill as a child and so spent more time on my own, either drawing, painting or reading. There was no interest in the visual arts at home, but my love of classical music developed through the encouragement of my mother.
I did quite well at high school and had a supportive art teacher who encouraged me to apply for admission to art school. Art school was a revelation. Instead of being a loner concerned with something no one else cared about, I was with a group of people, all as involved as myself, many much more talented.
I became intrigued with artists as diverse as Mondrian and Jackson Pollock much to the dismay of some of my lecturers who encouraged an English tonal postimpressionism. I became the student representative on the committee of the Midland Group of Artists which brought me into contact with painters working away from the art school environment and allowed me to exhibit work in a public gallery. I was also fortunate to have a work accepted for the Young Contemporaries in London. In my final year I had the privilege of handling the early drawings and sketchbooks of Samuel Palmer in the British Museum – a profound experience.
Influences have been enormous. I love the late, and long worked over studio interiors of Georges Braque. Rembrandt has always been a favourite, who knew more about the expressive power of paint! The imagination of William Blake draws me, particularly Illustrations of the Book of Job, and I admire the geometry of the Constructivists.
At the opening of an exhibition of my work someone said “but you keep changing your style”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I leave “style” to the critics and the theorists. An artist who searches for a style is looking for a vice to constrain ideas. Style is, after all, the most superficial way of labelling and has no relation to quality.
Naturally an artist looks for a means of realising an idea, but ideas are mercurial. When I was exploring the nature of colour in a highly geometric way I needed a technique which was totally different to the way I could represent the breathtaking experience of Bathurst Harbour.
My early work was very tonal, as was the industrial landscape it was based on. In Tasmania things changed, the clarity of the air, and brilliance of colour influenced my work, but so did my teaching. The creation of the foundation program at the school of art encouraged me to read and study in a particular way, this in turn influenced my painting. My present preoccupation with drawing is in part due to age.
Heather Curnow wrote in 1998 in reference to an exhibition of my painting “Paul Boam’s work is the result of an intense and emotional response to nature and events, given coherence by his sense of composition and his command of his painterly medium”.