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Born in Paris, raised in Quebec City where Paul Hunter’s father taught sculpture at l’École des Beaux-Arts. Both his parents are artists.
He paints luminous abstract landscapes on gold leafed and metal leafed canvasses. Extending the centuries-old tradition of gold leafing, he adapted the technique to express his own Modernist vision – one that has luminosity as its underlying theme.
Paul’s interest in painting on gold, copper, and aluminum leaf does not lie in the value of the precious metals, but in the unique quality of the reflected light that emanates from them. The metal leaf in fact forms only a micro-thin layer on the canvas. He paints directly onto this surface with acrylic paints and strives to create an intensely evocative radiance.
The changing light over the course of a day will dramatically alter the luminosity of these paintings. Similarly, by moving in front of the painting and shifting their viewing angle, viewers can alter the light and the shadow that fall onto the landscape and thereby witness the passage of time through light.
In addition, both the unnatural effect of the gold leaf and the grid formed by the application of rows of individual squares of metal leaf on the canvas draw attention to the flatness of the canvas and the picture plane, as does the horizon line that is parallel to the edges of the canvas. The composition creates a contradictory situation: It includes one of the central ideas of the landscape tradition in art, to create an illusion of deep space, as well as the opposite Modernist idea that emphasizes the concept that a painting is a flat surface. The materials he works with are inherently beautiful, but the paintings are also interesting because of the interplay between seemingly opposite artistic approaches.
In addition to paintings to canvas, he’s created and exhibited bronze sculptures, installations, prints and works on paper. His studio practice is characterized by experimentation with artistic techniques and materials, many of which he’s used in different combinations to develop several extended investigational series of work.
Imaginary landscapes, cityscapes, and shorelines remain central to his work. Almost all of his themes are painted from impressions of New York, his travels, and paintings he’s seen, rather from actual views.
In this ongoing exploration, he often combines different types of gold and metal leaf in a single painting to exploit their distinct colors and reflective qualities. For example, a pure 23 Karat gold leaf “sky” might be paired with white gold leaf “water”. He paints directly onto the metal or gold leaf. Transparent pigments allow the gold to shimmer through the paint and create an effect of depth, while opaque paints create a contrast to the exceptional glow of the gold. In several works, he also paints over the metal and gold leaf with metallic pigments to create shimmering variations in tonality. Alternatively, Paul can oxidize some of the metal leafed surfaces, such as those made of bronze and copper. Applying acids with his brush, he can patinate these metals and create dynamic gestural areas that contrast with the quiet sheen of the pure gold.The first preparatory step involves painting gold “size” that acts as an adhesive over the gessoed canvas. This layer is allowed to semi-dry. Then each square of metal leaf is individually applied by hand over this sticky surface in a manner comparable to laying rows of bricks. The applied metal leafs then cure before he begins painting the actual landscape. These time-consuming techniques were perfected centuries ago and assure that the final work will not deteriorate.
Since the 1980s, he’s lived and worked in New York City, and his paintings reflect contradictory aspects of living here; much of his work expresses the explosive energy and dynamism of this exceptionally intense and congested city, while other paintings are infused with a yearning for vast serene spaces. In a more recent suite of urban and industrial cityscapes he’s added collaged photographs that he took himself. These grew out of an idea to revisit a very early printing project, in which he had set out to make a suite of etchings on location, depicting “One Hundred Views of the Empire State Building” in 1987. Still riding his bike, Paul returned to his earlier vantage points to notice and record what had changed around this singular landmark. His camera took in a city both immutable and ever-changing, and he gradually added photographic views beyond his initial focus on this architectural monument.
To create these new works, he enlarged, gridded, and printed his photos on transparent Mylar sheets and then applied them directly onto aluminum leaf covered canvasses.
The grid of the tiled photographic prints echoes the grid of the aluminum leaf that is visible beneath and around the transparent prints. The materials reference the see-through celluloids, negatives, and techniques of early black and white photography, while the overall effect recalls the flickering images of early cinema. Paul overlays paints, pigments and glazes that refer to the chemical processes used to develop them, highlighting their mystery.
The use of the gridded transparent photographs continues his exploration of the contrast between the flatness of the doubly-gridded surface, and the perspectival depth of the photographic image itself.
Public Exhibitions Summary: Paul represented internationally, and has shown in solo and group exhibitions in the USA, Canada, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Gabon, India, China and Japan. Paul’s work has been exhibited in many museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Alternative Museum, the Drawing Center, P.S. 1, the Montclair Art Museum, the Museum of Princeton University, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Indiana University Museum, the Brauweiler Abbey near Cologne, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Quebec Museum.
He’s received numerous awards: the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Artists Space, National Studio Program: PS 1, Institute for Art & Urban Resources, Canada Council and Quebec Arts Fellowship awards among them. Paul continues to live and work in New York City.

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