Artists’ Series – 1 – The Monthly interviews musician and artist Paul Archer – Part 1 – exposed to art and music from an early age

What is your earliest memory of connecting with art and painting?

That goes right back to my father. My father has painted all his life and he painted in oils and I can remember him doing that all the way back to when I was a child. I was exposed to art and music, my father was also a musician, from no age onwards. My father has made music and he has painted all his life. I remember asking my dad once, if he had to choose would it be music or painting, and he told me painting. He is a master of form and his paintings are totally off the charts

Do you start painting as child?

Not really. I have always loved art. and when I lived in England, I would, periodically, take the train to London, go to Denmark Street to the guitar shops, and then I would take the Underground to the the South Bank and go to the Tate Modern. I would go to the Rothko room and stand in front of Pollacks and the Barnett Newmans and various other artists.

And one particular day I had an experience which transformed my understanding of art. My brother, Ian Archer, asked me to go with him to a Kandinsky exhibition. It was on at the National Gallery. There were loads of Kandinskys, from one end of the walls to the other and at one point we got to the end of the Kandinskys.

Barnet Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1951

There was a another painting, and I can honestly say that I was in awe, and I was staring at this painting and I looked at the plaque that said who the painting was by and it was by Barnett Newman. It was a Colourfield style painting and it was brilliant. Since that day I have been making pilgrimages to art exhibitions, to the Tate and all the time looking into that style of artistic expression.

If we go back a bit, you clearly have support at home, did you get any support at school?

Not really. I was supported at home and I did do art at school but I didn’t really do any painting. I came to painting later in life. I was talking to my Dad and he was saying that I keep talking about painting but I wasn’t actually painting and he said I should just paint. He suggested I could come to where he paints, we have this granny flat where he does his work, and put a tarpaulin down, and work away. And I thought I had some time and I could actually do it now and so I just started painting.

Why now and why abstract expressionism?

One of my favourite things which I love is whenever you take a bass or an electric guitar and you hook it up to a ton of pedals and if you keep pumping up the sound, eventually you get a sort of phasing, the sounds can’t sustain themselves and they start to fragment, they start to break apart.. I love sitting in the middle of that situation and hear the sounds breaking up. I just love that. I love that sense of brokenness. I have quite an obsession with that.

With my art, my approach is a bit like Gerhard Richter, a German painter, who uses a plastering board, a tool that plasterers use to pull the plaster over walls, and he pulls the paint over giant canvasses. I have a small stick which I use and I pull the paint through, and over, the canvas. I feel I take the paint, and myself, on a bit of a journey. I’m feeling out where the paint wants to go and it is very instinctual, very free.

The work we’ve seen is very much abstract and it appears to be both action based painting and colourfield based painting. Would that be reasonable to say?

Yes, I think that is accurate. I go back to that experience when I saw Barnett Newman’s paintings and how that impacted me. And now I find that I am drawn to painting, abstract definitely, but both presentations. Although I would say that I start with a colourfield and then I work the paint actively till I find something that works for me.

If you would like to see more of Paul Archer’s work see the links below.

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.