Paul Riley paints still lives. He has done throughout his career. That is not to say he sets a vase of flowers on a table and so perfectly captures the dappled sunlight on the silken petals, that you can almost smell their fragrance. Paul Riley paints still lives which resonate slightly further than the edges of his canvas. Like the greatest practitioners of the genre - from Zurburan to Morandi - he recognises that the "success" of a still life relies less on what is present in the painting than what is absent. Subject/object, composition and technique are relevant only as means to an end, as vehicles for emotional intensity.

Riley himself continues to employ the same, small coterie of inanimate objects - bottles, pots, cubes - recurring in ostensibly random permutations. However, the work in this exhibition does mark a shift that is radical in its truest sense; dispensing with the conventional description of three-dimensional space, the object is now set against a divided colour field. In the process, Riley may be seen as welding the concerns of two camps within contemporary painting, which are at best idiosyncratic, if not positively antithetical. He has elicited a "virtual" space from within a picture plane, which, by its nature, cannot possibly hold it. And, what is more, the eye embraces it - even at six foot square.

Not only do Riley's new paintings seem to reconfigure accepted practice in this visual sense, the attendant tensions have enhanced their emotive eloquence. He himself likens the paintings to the fleeting, expectant silence prior to a particularly aggressive piece of music. A heady moment suffused with anticipation and barely suppressed energy. Whatever the simile, they transcend the ephemerality and passivity of the subject, becoming intense, scintillating meditations in paint.


Studied Fine Art BA Hons degree at Gloucester College of Art 1982-85 and Post Graduate Diploma at the Royal Academy Schools London, 1986-89. One-man shows in London include New Grafton Gallery, The Blue Gallery and most recently, Sarah Myerscough Fine Art.

Works in collections include The Prudential, Clifford Chance and P & O Cruises as well as numerous private collections in the UK and internationally.

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