"Journeys" Paintings by Paul Janssens at the Alison Richard Building, Cambridge
The work for this exhibition “Journeys” covers a selection of paintings and sketchbooks from the last 20 years. Over this time, travelling has been one of the inspirations for my work. Destinations including Morocco, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Iberian Peninsular Italy , Turkey, Ireland, Orkney Islands and London, have been recorded in my sketch-books. Each new destination has inspired me to work in a different way by experimenting with paint techniques including sgraffito, collage, screen-print and mixed media on wood, paper and canvas. With my recent work I have been exploring the bustle and frenetic energy of Moroccan markets and busy cities, such as London. A key part in recording these travels has been through the use of sketch-books. These sketch-books have been both a means of recording and documenting the places experienced and also a source for producing the larger paintings. Along with the sketchbooks I will carry a small set of watercolours, brushes and pens to work with. Many of the places I visit are often of particular viewpoints which can take time to reach, so I limit what I take with me. Over time I have increased the size of the books as this has allowed for a greater range of compositions and also enables me to work with broader more expressive marks.
In selecting a subject to work from I will often spend time looking for the best view-point. However sometimes I instantly know where I want to work and can almost visualise the scale required to produce the painting in oils. When I have chosen the subject and the best view-point I’ll spend a short amount of time watching for changes that occur, these could include: light and colour changes or patterns in movement whether with people or other objects and forms. The ever changing light and weather creates dramatic forms and textures, the coastlines of Ireland and Britain and wetlands of East Anglia always prove challenging and exciting subjects.
I don’t always work immediately from the sketch-books, as I often revisit drawings from earlier journeys. The subjects I frequently look for deal with states of change. I return to places to see how time has effected them, this could be the result of natural effects, such as the weather and erosion or manmade influences.
The larger scale paintings are worked as a series which creates a sense of the journey. These paintings will often explore different views of a subject over a period of time.
I have recently been exploring the use of collage on the surface of my paintings, using documents and correspondence as references to the subject. These have included old maps, postcards and materials collected from the area giving the paintings a greater sense of place and human presence, as well as providing the paintings with layers and textures.
The surface of these collage materials create the underpainting, I then work with the painting flat on my bench so I can apply washes of dilute oil paint and allow the collage to absorb the paint and the colours to mix on the surface. Once the paint has settled I then begin to refine the painting with greater detail, whilst allowing areas of the collage to remain visible.