Paul Wadsworth captures time in his Arabian abstracts. The British artist is exhibiting his works based on experiences in Arabia at the Majlis Gallery, Dubai. Rajeev Nair has the details
Paul Wadsworth is fascinated by the time and space elements that are unique to Arabia. He seeks to capture time – that aged aura, which makes his subject, Arabia, alluring to countless artists from around the world.
The surface of his works is therefore important to him. He tries to pick on the textures, develop them painstakingly to “get that history of the walls” on the painting surface. Sometimes, it could take months for Wadsworth to finish – but then, the time element is indeed passing on to his paintings too. And with time, things start to emerge before the artist, who follows the painting, to see where it leads.
When he is sketching Arabia, it eventually leads to that one moment in time, which sparked off the artist in him. He cannot pinpoint what it is. Wadsworth would be trekking down the roads of Arabia, walking through the desert, studying the mountains and wadis, and then, “it hits” him. He might make instant sketches or photographs, and later, working from his studio in England, he seeks out to recreate the same mood.
He has been in the UAE since 2001, and he remembers that the first visit, undertook with no definitive ideas – “maybe I will sketch, maybe I won’t” – had a profound impact on the artist in him. Arabia “rolled amazingly well into my work at the time, the barren landscape, dramatic open spaces, solitude, the amazing architecture, blue seas and diverse cultures.”
There wasn’t a total shift in his artistic expressions. He had moved on from people to landscapes to abstract art and Wadsworth found himself falling into the subject matter quickly. The challenge, however, was to capture the “light and space” of Arabia. “I try to find that in my paintings. I look for simple forms in big space,” he adds.
Wadsworth comes from Cornwall, where there is a lot of flat-land, “very much like here.” He trained in art, graduating in fine art. Art did no run in his family; it is calling he discovered when he was about 17. “I studied art and science at school but I discovered that my heart was in art. The struggle is more and perhaps more money comes from science but art was what I opted to do.”
He experimented with various forms at college. He did sculptures, ceramics, photography, illustration…. “Initially, you don’t know where you are going and then you evolve – it might take a long walk to find out what you want to do. I still like to challenge and change the work. I don’t like to be stuck in one thing.”
For nearly three years, he did human figures, and then he left them behind. Perhaps, he would get back there; if he does so, he wouldn’t be surprised. Landscapes have always been a challenge for Wadsworth – Arabian landscapes all the more because he usually works on them from England after a whirlwind tour through the UAE when he gathers inspiration. “The difficult part, really, is to capture the flavours of the Middle East, sitting there in the UK.”
He had met Majlis Gallery’s Allison Collins in the UK and was prompted to travel into Dubai. “I travelled around a lot and discovered instantly that it was a good place to paint.”
His triggers could have been the mountains and the wadis. But now, every time he visits the UAE, he tries to paint something different. Various things strike him – the rock formations, the simplicity of a sand dune, or even a single tree. He travelled to Mossundum, and feels he could stay put there and paint on for months: “In every corner, there is something to paint…”
Wadsworth’s Arabian paintings have a lot of minarets. “I love their forms,” he says. And his energy and vivacity are reflected in the vibrant hues of his works. “To me painting is not about having it all ready in your mind; it is about reacting to the work (as it unfolds). It is a continuous process of reacting; something grabs you and move that way.”
At Majlis Gallery, his mixed media and oil works are a tribute to Arabia – its character reflecting from works named, “Windows, Minarets, Glimpses of the Past, Call to Prayer, Veil, Out of the Past…”