March 2014

My interest in painting is to do with what can only be said within the medium itself. Mixing up different media has never interested me. Some years ago, Tate Modern exhibited rocks and text by Richard Long next to a painting by Monet under the heading: " Landscape". This degrades painting to the level of image and text. It's a misunderstanding of the nature of painting.

The novel can explore different modes of human existence, but painting is different. In painting you have a simultaneous surface which can "delay" the eye in interesting ways if the artist is good enough. What Delacroix wrote in the mid-nineteenth century, still holds true for me: "The first condition for a painting is to be a feast for the eye".

Paul Gopal - Chowdhury

March 2004
During the last fifteen years or so my painting has moved into a new and different area. Explaining how and why this change occurred is difficult because there are many reasons, some conscious, others unconscious. I suppose I was dissatisfied with what I was doing and felt I had things to say which couldn't be painted in the previous way. Gradually a pressure built up until eventually something in myself broke down (it manifested itself as illness) and this led to painting things I hadn't anticipated or wanted to paint before.
My main subject now is a combination of Indian mythological images and London street scenes (the real subject of course, is how to intensify things). You can be working on something for years and feel its right, then one day things feel flat, lacking in energy. If this feeling persists, then its time to change. Ideally I would like to paint different things in different ways. I don't want to be a prisoner of style. Painting a croissant and a coffee-cup isn't the same as painting a person. It shouldn't be, but there are good paintings which have people as still as cups and cups which seem to move. I'm thinking of Cézanne, who created living things by the interrelation of every part of his paintings. So there isn't a rule, one has to go by instinct.
For myself, combining two very different images (Indian mythological and urban London) makes a situation which is both exciting and at times unbearable. I want to create an exchange between them so that everyday reality can appear mythic and the mythological part can become real. Balancing this is very difficult and mostly I fail. But sometimes, even in failing, an intensity is reached. Even when this happens, it doesn't last, so I keep trying and in different ways. Reality is elusive. If you try to capture it in one way it presents another aspect which is altogether different and so it's a constant battle, one I'm bound to lose. But still I want to keep trying.

Paul Gopal - Chowdhury

June 1980
Painting is a matter of interpretation, like other conventions it is not what you say but how you say it that matters. However, unlike other conventions painting has the unique distinction of being able to reveal its content in an instant. Literature, music and sculpture all require a passage of time to be read, heard or seen fully.

The limitations of the convention - a single flat surface covered or partially covered with paint provide the means for saying whatever the artist has to say.

It seems extraordinary that anything so apparently simple can obtain so many different possibilities. One has to choose the aspect that interests one and perhaps sacrifice other aspects in the process. The task of recording an event or telling a story is part of painting I do not want to deal with. I think that films and photography can best deal with such visual story-telling. I am only interested in making images which are equivalents for my sensations before a subject. I want to paint a face or a tea-cup that will interest and possibly move people by the way they are painted.

A portrait by Chardin is different from Rembrandt or Cézanne and yet all three were trying to paint what they saw. Why isn't there a constant stereotype portrait? The answer is obvious - reality changes; whether the change occurs through art or some other agent is debatable, but the fact remains and will continue to exist as long as there are people interested in trying to capture a likeness.

Paul Gopal - Chowdhury