The approach to Paul Wright’s wittily-named Wright Boot Studio is unconventional. A narrow doorway in the yard of a working Victorian warehouse leads you to a well-worn service lift that climbs slowly to the top floor, where this young artist has created a surprisingly bright and open space. There’s no inspiring view from the skylights; instead, it’s the array of Paul’s work around the walls that commands your immediate attention. His signature portraits are lined up like a welcoming party, their gaze coming at you from all angles. They number his closest family and friends, chance encounters and even those who have come forward unprompted to have their likeness captured.
Paul’s skills are widely recognised and appreciated and last year he was included for the first time in the BP National Portrait Award selection, displayed at London’s National Portrait Gallery ahead of a nationwide tour. The piece chosen is characteristic of his work: Ian is a compact portrait of a close friend that, although small in dimensions, is exceptionally powerful in content. Paul has a masterful technique: bold, thick strokes are applied with confidence and economy, using a rich palette and creating a wonderful texture.
Style does not overwhelm the content, however, but gives a sharp focus to character and mood. The viewer is brought into the private world of the subject to ponder on his or her inner thoughts; with little or no background detail, there is nothing to distract from the creation of a direct and, at times, even intimate relationship.
Paul himself is open, humorous and enthusiastic about his work, his family and, to his further credit, cricket. On first acquaintance, it is easy to understand how he manages to build a trust in his subjects that allows them to so evidently relax and reveal their inner selves to the artist’s eye.
In capturing character, Paul has occasionally shifted his focus from the face to look to explore the qualities that can be found in a person’s clothes, in particular shoes and boots. The way he captures the creases of a well-worn pair of brogues, or the folds and stains on a pair of the artist’s overalls again leads the viewer into the private world of the wearer. In the studio, this aspect of his work is reflected in discarded jeans and odd shoes, scattered rather comfortingly, as if in a student bedsit.
Not all his canvases are small and, perhaps as a means of breaking out of the intensity of his portraiture, Paul has embarked on a series of cloudscapes. These brilliant, open works give the artist breathing space and the opportunity to apply his technique and colour to a totally different subject.
Mastery of a fine technique and great artistic perception combine to make Paul Wright an artist of uncommon accomplishment and talent.