Galvanized Undergrowth 2, oil on linen, 120 cm x 120 cm, 2014
While at the University of Cardiff, Wales, I “did paint,” although my coursework was conceptually based and emphasized theory over practice. I had three years of talking and discussing ideas for work.
Painting and the fact that it has been practiced for hundreds of years presented me my greatest challenge. After three years of using a single idea for an artwork—and, in turn, thinking of the idea as the artwork—I felt that something else was needed to enable me to continue my practice. The development of idea through paint is what appealed most. It still does.
When I was painting in London prior to 2008, I was not setting out to be a landscape painter. I just wanted to concentrate on the medium of paint on a flat surface. My work found itself within the landscape of East London, which, more than anything else, I found to be a place of contrasts.
Having been brought up in London facilitated my painting, I think, because of my ever-present sense of familiarity with the London landscape and, allied to that, my sense of empathy.
It seemed completely natural for my paintings to begin to follow the landscape that surrounded me. And even though I never set out to paint in a descriptive or narrative manner, I was drawn to choose a building, a rooftop, a grave yard, or a tree for its visual qualities.
In East London, I was surrounded by the old and the modern, the built-up and the empty. In a visual sense, these set me off. Urban London’s landscape of colors and shapes intrigued me. Still, the question remained, “How could I put these visual sensations that I see in front of me onto a canvas in paint?”
After leaving London in 2008, I worked in Rome. I chose Rome because I wanted to follow themes, the old and the modern, I’d established in my London pictures, and to be in close proximity to vegetation within a city. Later, standing back from my time in Italy, my vision and practice clarified. I realized that in London I had always been restricted by the weather, whereas in Italy, I suffered no anxiety; my mind became free, restrictions lifted. I could paint whenever I wanted. I could follow the changing light all day.
Drawing continues to be the focal point of my work; it is the way I begin to understand what is in front of me, to generate an idea in which lies the foundation for a painting. The idea, for me, is found and made clear through the act of drawing.
As well as confirming an idea for a painting, my drawing serves as a kind of research. I may, often do, draw something with no intention of ever making a painting from it. I only draw the idea, speak to it. I draw to understand what I see, and I want my eyes to start a conversation with the subject. If the conversation continues and I feel in a visual sense what is in front of me, then I see any subsequent painting as a way to record the dialogue.
I see all of my paintings as extended thoughts and ideas, as the visual records of those thoughts and ideas.
My days spent living and working in London’s East End were, for me, a period of “post-education,” of understanding what it means to be an artist, to connect with galleries and understand the commercial side of the art world. In contrast, I view my time in Italy, where I was living as an artist, as a kind of self-imposed apprenticeship.
In late 2012, having moved my studio to Vienna, I began to consolidate my London practice with my Italian experiences. A perfect city for me, Vienna has strong cultural connections with all of Europe. It’s a balance of London’s commercial demands and Italy’s timelessness. Finding continuity in weather and place has always been important to me and, given Austria’s clearly demarcated seasons, I’m able to work more intensively now than ever before.
Although I do not aim to make solely “imagined” paintings, I find that my most recent works are “imagined,” as they remain deeply rooted in my imagination of the landscape, in the close and intriguing relationship between landscape and palette and brush.
Currently, I am working on a series of Vienna woodland paintings.
About the Artist
Noel Paine was born in Woolwich, London, in 1971, and spent his childhood in South London. He completed his Foundation Course at The City and Guilds of London Art School in 1991. He graduated in 1994 from the University of Wales, in Cardiff, with a bachelor’s (honors) degree in art and aesthetics and first-class honors in painting. His studies encompassed art history, art philosophy, sculpture, and painting.
A participant in an exchange program at College of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1993, Noel Paine was taught by abstract painter Michael Tysack and was an artist’s assistant to David Novros. During his studies in Charleston he made the decision to focus his own work on painting.
Back in London in 1995, Noel Paine worked from a studio at Limehouse Arts Foundation, East London; later that same year, he returned to the United States, where he worked in a studio on the Bowery in New York City. In 1996, Noel Paine returned to East London, to a studio with Barbican Arts Trust, and began exhibiting his paintings. He was selected for the Portrait award by the National Portrait Gallery, London.
In 1998, Noel Paine completed a master’s degree in fine art at University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church College, where he focused solely on painting. During this time he began painting still lifes as a means to developing his understanding of form and color under various lighting conditions.
Noel Paine’s first solo exhibition was in 1999 at Lewisham Art House, South London. That same year he began working outside, a practice that continued when he moved in 2001 to his studio at Trinity Buoy Wharf in the London Docklands. London’s hidden spaces, distinguished by an abundance of shapes, colors, and changing light throughout the seasons, inspired his East London series, which subsequently were exhibited at Homerton Hospital and London City Hospital.
Noel Paine was selected for the “Discerning Eye” exhibition at Mall Galleries in London in 2000. In 2008, following a successful solo show of his London paintings at Menier Gallery, Noel Paine moved to Italy, where he worked first in Rome, painting en plain air in Italy’s strong, cinematic light. His main subjects were the Appia Antica and Rome’s historic parks and gardens. In 2010, he relocated his studio to the historic village of Anticoli Corrado in Lazio, approximately 60 kilometers east of Rome.
In 2011, Noel Paine exhibited his Roman paintings within the collection of Roman artifacts at the Museum of Archaelogy in Mondragoone, in southern Italy. A solo show of his Italian paintings took place in 2013 at Gallery 27 on Cork Street, London.
Noel Paine moved in 2012 to Vienna, Austria, where he first worked as a copyist at Kunsthistoriches Museum.He has held a variety of teaching positions, including the post of visiting lecturer at London’s Art Academy. Currently, he works as a freelance lecturer at London’s National Gallery.
Deeply rooted in the tradition of figurative and representational painting, Noel Paine continues to paint primarily Austrian and Italian landscapes. His ideas and concepts for paintings remain completely abstract.
Noel Paine exhibited in January 2015 at Gallery 8 in Duke Street in London. A selection of his London, Italian, and recent Viennese woodland paintings can be seen in September at Sechsschimmel Galerie in Vienna.
Reproductions of Noel Paine’s paintings are available from Bridgeman Art Library.