La Casa de Cultura, l’Alfàs del Pi, Spain

16 - 30 May 1997    

Solo exhibition, 28 paintings shown

Photo of an exhibition of Paul Critchley's paintings at the Casa De Cultura, l'Alfàs del Pi, Spain in 1997

Female Focus

Beryl D’Arcy-Gray 

An Artist in Focus : Paul Critchley 

“I see it feelingly” Act 4 King Lear, Shakespeare 

Calling art lovers and those who have never been to an art exhibition in their lives! Calling all who want to be inspired, entertained, or amazed! Calling people of every nationality who recognise the beauty and worth of the artist’s endeavour and creativity!

Come to the Casa de Cultura de Alfaz del Pi, see paintings by the exciting English painter, Paul Critchley, honoured in 1995 by the Spanish art establishment who elected him as a member of the prestigious Associación de Pintores y Escultores, whose work entitled Los Vecinos was recently awarded 2º prize in the Premio Nacional de Pintura de Ville de Teulada and whose last showing in the International ArtExpo in Barcelona in April 1997 was highly acclaimed. The exhibition in Alfaz del Pi’s excellent exposition centre, held under the auspices of the concejalia de cultura opens in the presence of the British Consul, at 8pm 18th May and continues until Friday 30th.

The art of this unaffected, approachable man is totally accessible to everybody and is powerfully in demand throughout Europe and Australia. Come and see one of the finest British exports in Europe! Come and ENJOY! Meet the artist either in person or through his work. You will have a memorable experience.

Photo of an exhibition of Paul Critchley's paintings at the Casa De Cultura, l'Alfàs del Pi, Spain in 1997  2

Paul Critchley lives in Altea with his wife, Helen; is happiest when working, admitting a touch comically, dancing eyes sparkling over granny-specs, that he becomes a little 'scratchy' if he is too long away from the paint brush. Helen enjoys bracing walks along the promenade of this lovely town but is rarely accompanied by Paul, whose alleged interest in walking extends only as far as the artists’ supply shops for new colours for his palette.

Unashamedly this very trim man proclaims himself 'unfit'. Declaring that all he exercises is his painting hand. Helen smiles knowingly, understanding that this down to earth sociable chap, explores endlessly seeking exteriors and interiors which will be sketched then transformed into spectacular pieces some time later. Paul’s walks always have a purpose.

Helen who jokes about keeping Paul chained to a 'hot' paintbrush, is the perfect foil for her husband. They are a great pair and splendid company. Helen made all the arrangements for their wedding in Derby just over a year ago, whilst Paul remained with his work in Spain. Shortly before the big day Paul, with wedding ring designs tucked away, but no wedding rings to hand, drove from the Costa Blanca to the north of Germany skipped a ferry to the Baltic island of Fehmarn, on which lives a talented female goldsmith, bartered a painting for two wedding rings, crafted in the shape of a serpentine paint brush and looked on whilst they were hammered out in the early hours of a Baltic dawn. Helen saw her ring for the first time when it was slipped romantically onto her finger at the ceremony. Now, living in Spain, Helen watches indulgently as Paul uses the best china plates to mix plaster to texture his canvases; understands his preference for disorder (the lived-in room) knows how much he enjoys the smell of dust, and appreciates that he possesses the incredible physical and mental stamina to work the long hours essential to fulfil his task.

This is a very fit and determined man, readers, who has come a long way and still has a fascinating road to walk.

Photo of an exhibition of Paul Critchley's paintings at the Casa De Cultura, l'Alfàs del Pi, Spain in 1997 3

Paul is embarked on a continuing quest, (begun 24 years ago in Rainford High School, Merseyside, when unable to get perspective right in an art lesson) to find a means of expressing his feelings of time, space, light and colour in a manner that challenges the traditional norms and conventions of classical perspective which he feels traps the artistic vision within gilded frames of squares and rectangles. Paul baulks at the restrictions imposed by convention and has liberated himself and the viewer by abandoning the frame, thus allowing his unique multi-perspective vision, poetic, mysterious, expectant, musically and vibrantly alive, to emerge.

 Paul attended St. Helens College of Art of which his father, Harold Critchley, (a landscape artist of note) was principal, and then took a degree in Fine Art at Coventry Polytechnic which is renowned for good teaching in this discipline. Afterwards he taught ‘A’ level art for two years, painted a few commissions, worked as a labourer in the building trade (not a successful venture) struggled on the dole for a time, worked at his paintings always and reaped the reward of several prizes of note including the Stowell’s Trophy main prize and Spencers’ Industrial Arts Travelship. At the tender age of 24 his talent was formally recognised and he was elected as a member of Manchester Academy. He WORKS ceaselessly to develop and market his work. Not for Paul the life of the lotus-eater; he is a guy who must earn his daily bread from his talent.

 Paul has always worked to support himself, caring little what he did in order to pay the rent, buy paint and food and have a little more TIME. In fact he has had a succession of bizarre jobs of which he is proud. From unloading 30 tonnes of cheese every Wednesday for nearly three years, to driving the baker’s van, washing cars, eight out shifts picking defective frozen potato chips from the conveyer belt in a food processing factory - risking frost bitten fingers every day, making aircraft seats and general dogs-bodying. He admits to doing some 'pub portraits' in Berlin to earn 'Xmas beer money' and has the distinction of having worked for that great institution, well beloved by all servicemen, the NAAFI, though only for six weeks!!

 To develop his skill and talent he has lived in Berlin and Munchengladbach in Germany, Padova and Sienna in Italy, Montpelier in France, Venlo in Holland, Callosa and Altea in Spain, mostly very frugally in tiny apartments, or bartering his paintings for the chance to live for a short time in a different environment with a different kind of interior and exterior space. He has learned the language of the countries in which he has lived, although this modest man admits to only a 'passing? 'nowledge. It is said that to know the language of a country is to approach its soul. Paul has approached the soul of the places in which he has sojourned and has expanded his own vision thereby, as those who have seen his work will attest.

Paul enjoyed the isolation of the 'island' of Berlin, before the wall came down. He enjoyed the international flavour of the place, its scent and was fascinated by the locations in which things of historical note had happened and places about which little was known but seemed to communicate to him through their colours and stones and bricks and peeling of smart paint work. Paul senses the quintessence of location, rather in the same way that a set designer reaches the heart of the play or film to create the environment through which the emotions and the narrative can find voice.

Paul’s audiences are many and varied, they need no script nor interloping actor to appreciate his narrative, they feel the space, light, time and mood of the artist’s vision. Paul is very conscious of the smell of a place and remembers those redolent aromas of Callosa, Yugoslavia and Berlin, especially after the rain as important experiences in his life. Paul’s work arouses a pre-knowledge, almost a familiarity with the environments he depicts which are real yet transformed into a spectacular experience of the known, in every sense. Most of us remember a song, a scent, a trick of light, which is in no way whimsy but a precious record of time spent and feelings felt. Paul’s paintings are testament to this and many other aspects of human experience.

After exhibiting in the UK, France and Germany, Paul’s work was brought to the attention of Franco Boni of the Italian TV Telemarket for the arts, an exclusive show place for fine arts. This led to massive exposure, whereupon people throughout Italy and Europe began to clamour for his work. At last he was recognised by the general public as an artist worthy of real attention. In two sessions on the Fine Arts Show in Italy he sold 22 paintings. The power of TV still generates interest in the work of the stunning artist, for it was at the International ArtExpo in Barcelona last year that, on the opening session, Spanish TV featured one of his paintings on the news. The next day, as soon as the expo opened, a Spanish farmer plus wife and children arrived (after driving pell mell from Lérida, two hours away) in order to buy the painting. His paintings are admired and collected by many types of people from farmers to bankers and princes, from the young to the mature. His work comes in many shapes, sizes and price tags and are becoming very popular throughout the world.

He has now exhibited in more than eighty locations, either as a solo artist, as will be the case in Alfaz del Pi, as part of a group, or as a member of an international platform. There were twelve exhibitions last year, and there will be a similar number this year. This signifies the reality of a prodigious amount of work, dedication and constant travelling. His programme for 1998 is rapidly filling up, in September 6 - 20, Paul will be exhibiting in Chalon-Sur-Saône, France, with his parents, Joan (watercolours and embroidery pictures) and Harold (landscapes). Next year he will exhibit in Copenhagen at the Danish Centre for Architecture and Design, Gammel Dok, followed by a group exhibition in Stuttgart to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city with his home town of St. Helens.

Paul Critchley's paintings now have homes in Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, England and in the southern hemisphere, especially in Australia. Paul has work in six collections on permanent show in Leicester, Hilden, Venlo, Brussels, the Town Hall of Tarascon, France, Ayuntamiento de Teulada, Spain.

Currently there are 19 pages of his work available on the internet. What a shame that Van Gogh and all those other artists who sold little or nothing during their lives didn't have such an incredible world wide exhibition possibility. Mike Critchley, his brother, has designed the package which Paul uses and can be reached through Paul by any other artists interested in bringing their work to the widest possible audience.

Photo of an exhibition of Paul Critchley's paintings at the Casa De Cultura, l'Alfàs del Pi, Spain in 1997 4

Paul, the artist and man, for one informs the other, is always aware of a number of different perspectives and this is what makes him a singular artist rather than a technician, though his technical skills are second to none. Now in Altea, after several years in Callosa and hunting around the pueblos for interesting interiors and exteriors he has found a wonderful base from which to work. As Maslow opined in his world famous hierarchy, Paul has reached the highest level possible, that of self actualisation. What the artist produces on the canvas is an integral part of himself at the same time as a perfectly appreciable picture of the real. In his latest series of paintings there are still surprises and moments of exquisite wonder. Look out for the paintings depicting the movement of time in the streets of Altea (they have removable skies), wonder at the interior and exterior corner paintings on two or three planes which create yet another dimension. Crane your neck to catch the vision of the ceiling paintings ... the two paintings which are especially for the collector who has run out of wall space. And be prepared to be totally surprised by his interior / exterior window paintings.

You won't find many people in Paul’s paintings but you will find shadows, silhouettes and, in his more recent works, the occasional hand or foot, as in the amusing painting Corre!, Look carefully, explore the rich detail, then enjoy the captured essence of the streets in the ancient urban settings, for this quiet, gentle and amusing man (to quote blind Gloucester in King Lear) sees feelingly! Look with his eyes, discard the uninteresting and unimportant and learn what magnificence surrounds us all and every day.

There are many interesting people living here on the Costa Blanca. Here is one of the most gifted. Give yourself a real treat and get to know his work, it is superb.