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Paul Brigham has spent a number of years reading Zen philosophy, practicing Tai Chi, and studying Asian art and aesthetics. He downplays his formal artistic training and cites as more influential the education received from his firsthand experience of nature. His recent paintings are inspired by the tradition of ukiyo-e, “the floating world”, specifically Japanese bird and flower prints. The challenge for Brigham has been to apply aspects of these traditions to his work in a way that respects but does not imitate them, and in a way that reflects his own experiences as a 21st Century painter living in California. To Brigham, the idea of the floating world describes the ephemeral and impermanent of our worldly existence. Brigham’s technique consists of layering paint and silk-screened images and then using sandpaper to reveal elements from previous layer. This layering technique not only contributes to the depth and texture but also captures the effect of the transitory nature underlying everything and making them appear in a state of flux. The background Brigham has created reflects how the bird might see the world — it is serene and magical and the bird seems at home there. One learns a landscape finally not knowing the name or identity of everything in it, but by perceiving the relationships in it — like that between the sparrow and the twig. — Barry Lopez, Crossing Open Ground
My paintings and sculptures bridge ancient and modern sensibilities. The subjects are often classical figures and portraits, but my use of materials is pure expressionism. I am most comfortable working in large scale. It is a great format for viewers to “step into” and experience. My approach to my work includes both tradition and intuition. I pay careful attention to proportions, values, scale, and especially contrast. I begin by capturing my subject in a representational fashion. Once this foundation is made I then switch to a more contemporary mindset. I begin to view the painting more abstractly focusing on form and surface. Design and linear elements, colors, metals, and patinas begin to work into the piece and often completely cover the substructure. I tend to experiment with various media like tar, metallic latex, and even resin. I view my work upside down or view them through a mirror to find harmony in the mix. This phase is rather spontaneous and intuitive. Some of my work comes together quickly while others evade me for months even years. There is a close relation between how I work and the way I live. My worldview is grounded in reality, guiding principles and what I believe to be true. If I live or paint by only what I can see or understand there is no room for invention. At the same time, the freedom and joy of exploring new potentials, if not grounded becomes lost and has no direction. There is a necessary balance between what is real and our freedom to create, interpret and explore within this reality. What really makes my art alive is both embracing this concept and exposing the contrasts.