Paul Clifford
Paul Clifford

Paul Clifford is a painter and digital artist whose work explores the boundaries between traditional media and new technology.

As an artist Paul has embraced the use of digital media and in that sense follows the path of many artists who have been good at hijacking the tools and conventions of industry for their own pur-poses. Warhol and Lichenstein appropriated the signs of mass reproduction and a throw-away cul-ture, whilst post modern artists such as Barbara Kruger use a mix of words and images, directly parodying billboard advertisements to comment on values in our society. Artists Statement

A central focus of my studio practice deals with the subversion of found images in attempt to reveal what Jean Arp called the "secret soul of things".

In my case, the "things" are often a result of accidental discoveries made while rummaging in anti-quarian bookstores, where "loaded" pictures can lurk, suffused with forgotten histories, waiting to be restored to new life.

My process of transforming appropriated material relies upon interweaving layered images, includ-ing signs and text, applied in various mixed media to create formal order and structure. Painting and digital imaging are mainstays of this reworking, often used in combination with printmaking and systems of image transfer.

Optimum results are ambiguous and allusive, suggesting the imprecise nature of "soul".

Over a number of years paul has been involved in numerous projects that explore the cross -over between digital media image transfer and mixed media.

As an artist he uses computer tools both as a means to and end i.e. as a useful means of planning and manipulating images for other applications, such as planning a mural but is also aware that digital imaging has some intrinsic qualities that makes it a valuable medium in it's own right.

The 'Hidden Rivers' project provides an example of the way Paul works.

'The idea of a Hidden River is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Rivers themselves, already allude to spiritual, sometimes sacred ideas, creating potent metaphors for life. In this regard a subterra-nean water course can be likened to blood in the veins, flowing through the body of the earth, pro-viding the sustenance for the land.

Hidden Rivers also shape the land, providing an invisible underpinning for the plan of city streets, influencing waterside developments in trade, architecture and industry.

This invisible dimension of the Hidden River has led to me to consider the importance of other la-tent images that can belie forms and constructions of all kinds, from industrial diagrams to 'secret geometry' in paintings'.

During the project, Paul found an archived image of a young Newcastle girl who had spent twenty years of her life in prison for stealing two books. The image of the girl is overlayed with text and images of the River Tyne, the sense of the free flowing water contrasting with the girls' lack of freedom.

The digital prints and paintings he developed for this exhibition are based upon photographs of wa-ter flowing into the Tyne at the mouth of the Lort Burn. These images are used in combination with an eclectic range of references that have forged the making of Newcastle'.

In developing ideas Paul uses a traditional sketchbook as it is accessible, transportable and allows drawing with accompanying annotation to be recorded instantly. 'After the sketchbook , the com-puter often provides an important first stage of visualization, allowing images to be shifted and planned through a range of alternatives. I often work interactively between the computer screen and painting, developing images in a stage by stage manner'.

The use of digital technologies has had a huge impact on extending Paul's creative practice as an image maker in the areas of digital printmaking and the internet which gives him exposure to new audiences, opportunities for collaboration and the exploration of time based work and site specific installations.

In 'C A D A V R E S E X Q U I S' in collaboration with Charlie Holt the reinvention of the surre-alist collaborative game is viewed within the contemporary cultural context, exploring and extend-ing the potential of accidental encounters and undermining subjectivity with the assistance of new digital technology.

"We aim to create an eclectic and incomprehensible melt down of images that explore a pluralist aesthetic that is halfway between understanding and magic."

A series of mail art works have been created in a reciprocal visual dialogue that is both indetermi-nate and free from logic. A form of experimentation that resurrects the surrealist notion of the "Ex-quisite Corpse", or game of "Consequences" where several people compose chance images or phrases and encourage a sense of drifting with the current.

The process of collaboration has enabled a subversion of work process and conscious decision mak-ing. Mechanisms of collage and image transfers have been exploited to encourage unexpected in-terventions between ready-made images, words and the painted surface. Markings from the interna-tional postal system including stamps, franking, and official annotation have added to the process, becoming integral to the poetics of the image.

When asked if computer enabled art reduces the need for traditional drawing, compositional skills his response was;

'In one way, Yes….For example, at one time the dominant styles in illustration were founded on traditional representational skills, whereas computer manipulated images have now become fairly standard.

Perhaps the central importance is the understanding of formal principles of composition, such as form and space relationships. Drawing is an excellent means of instilling this appreciation, but some may find the computer to be equally as effective'.