Fluid forms with imprints of figures emerge from darkness in Paul Blanchard’s recent enigmatic works. Traum, the German word for ‘dream’, hints that these morphic creatures could be from this world where reality is suspended, nightmares occur and the imagination plays free from constraints.
Inspired by painters such as Francis Bacon and New Zealand’s Tony Fomison, both who have wrestled with darker questions of human existence, Blanchard pulls inspiration from a variety of sources including literature and religious imagery. Central to this is the notion of transformation. A religious upbringing exposed him to the power of rhetoric and the belief of a world existing beyond, yet intertwined with, the temporal every-day. Later, historic paintings became an influence with their depictions of suffering and divine intervention.
Characters in early literature possessing metamorphic qualities, such as the twentieth century mystic authors, are a further continuation. Helen Vaughan alludes to Arthur Machen’s protagonist from ‘The Great God Pan' a classic in early horror where the supernatural, animal, and human intermingle. Blanchard’s works are not visual manifestations of these characters but rather form a ‘mood’ or starting point to the final product which shift and slide with muted elusiveness.
Literary influence is again a starting point in Persephone. Its title derives from a Greek tragedy but its content is local. The New Zealand bush is transformed into a mythic setting where a strange creature resides. A hybrid soft, fleshy Kokako sits in front of a forest backdrop anchored by its human ear and eye that peers curiously out, framed by Rewarewa blossoms.
There is a heavy textural and painterly quality to these works seen in the diversity of brushstrokes and tones. In Helen Vaughan a deep smooth backgrounds forms an abyss from which the faceless head emerges, wrestled from darkness, in a swirl of white paint, as if to suck the viewer into a void. To break this suction paint drips down from above – reminding the viewer of the materiality of the painting.
Blanchard describes himself as obsessive and these works are unashamedly deep wrestling with questions of human purpose and psychological trauma. His pictures are full with Dionysian energy and contrasting moments of stillness creating tension and instability. He states ‘I like art with a bewildered, nihilistic but passionate world view’. Despite dark content the results are lyrical paintings of haunting resonance and beauty.