The streets of a small Spanish town come alive in works now being exhibited in Brisbane
Scuttling along the narrow streets of the Spanish seaside town of Altea, Paul Critchley would look like other British tourist on the verge of sunburn. But instead of a camera, Critchley 35, carries a sketch book. The real difference, however, is that he is a local, has been for several years, and rather than snapping shots for the holiday album, he sketches the street-scapes for his wonderful paintings. His studio/home is a modest pad with a view of the Mediterranean and, well, live couldn't get much better.
Which is just the feeling you get from his paintings - works which have made their way, with the artist in tow, to Brisbane, through a circuitous set of circumstances. His former sister-in-law, Christa Critchley, an associate professor in botany at the University of Queensland, received a painting from Paul, which she had commissioned on her last trip to Europe and immediately decided that Brisbane must have a show.
Now Christa Critchley happens to be involved with Margie Fraser and Cathy Cowell in Object Art Enterprises, a new Bardon - based business which aims to exhibit the best art in appropriate venues. The three women got together and talked Paul into working up a show, ‘Streets of Alicante’.
Altea is in the province of Alicante, hence the title explains Critchley, walking me through the exhibition, which he hopes will be like a stroll through his adopted home town. "When I was living in Northern Europe I did interiors because it was too cold to go outside", Critchley says. "But when I went to Spain that changed. The light in Spain is so extraordinary".
Critchley studied art in Coventry, and taught and painted there until the shades of grey got too much for him about a decade ago. "I put all my money in my pocket and left for Berlin", he says. "I had an old car I travelled around in. I lived just near the Berlin wall actually. The isolation of being there was good for my work. There wasn't anyone knocking on my door saying 'Lets go for a beer'. "
Berlin was a bit grey too, so he moved on to Italy, Holland and France before settling in Altea with girlfriend Helen Conlon, 31, who is not looking too happy about being transferred back to England by the bank she works for. They'll have to work that one out.
In the meanwhile, however, the couple are enjoying Australia ... travelling, relaxing and doing a bit of reading. "I'm just reading that book 'Real men don't eat quiche'", the good humoured balding Critchley says. "I'm a bit worried because I actually cook quiche!".
How does this effect his manhood, he wonders. Add to that the fact that he drives a Volvo and he could be in danger of resembling a certain yuppie stereotype. The Volvo has a boot, he explains, which is the right size for transporting his paintings, many of which are odd shapes.
He also uses unusual surface textures and renders some works so that the ancient walls seem as rough and earthy as they do in the town of Altea itself. The titles evoke the charming fishing and tourist town of 30,000, which is a spot favoured by artists and other creative folk. There's 'El Mar', 'La Casita y El Burro' (you guessed right a donkey is involved), 'Village Church', 'El portal viejo del pueblecito', 'Clouds gathering at dusk' - 26 paintings in all.
Critchley loves travelling to places where the climate is kind and the light is good. So we may see him back in Brisbane for another show soon.