A Palette of Classical Talent Hidden in the Hills
An awarded and world-sought-after portrait artist sits quietly exacting his oil painting talents overlooking a green sunny rural backyard in Dural.
Paul Newton paints portraits in oils that radiate serenity and glow with a ferocious authenticity that compels you to stop and stare. Very often the subject is serenely gazing back at you in deep communication.
It is this talent that has made him sought after to create timeless portraits that have been ‘final’ listed ten times in the Archibald prize and a Finalist 2012 (for David Gonski AC). His paintings are exhibited in the Australian National Portrait Gallery, Parliament House Canberra, Princeton and Columbia Universities. His commissions include the Domus Australia Chapel in Rome, Deans, CEOs, celebrities, cardinals, chancellors, icons, politicians and football stars. All have been rendered timeless by his brush. Paul is aHills boy with a science degree.
His self-confessed ‘loose’ youth was spent playing his guitar in pubs and restaurants, whilst doing the usual ‘get-by’ student jobs, (he can tell you how to cook ‘french fries’). During this time he came to a realisation that art was his metier. At the famous Julian Ashton Art School, he became shaped and launched into illustration. His studio walls attest to his successful early talent, with his illustrations telling a narrative that has become gentler and more subtle in his portraits. I was met at the door by this tall charming man.
I am eagerly led to his new studio building under construction ‘down the back’. There sits a modern imposing and sweepingly elegant new work space. ‘Southish’ facing, sweeping planar roof line and giant windows let in the light, with a mezzanine and patio overlooking the rural view, to allow the type of convivial sociability, endemic of the art world. Between talks at Sydney Art Gallery, commissions and trips overseas to New York and US, Paul undertakes commissions from corporations and families.
The US south has a big tradition of family portraiture that doesn’t exist in Australia. Research and collaboration follow his visits. Frozen in time, these slices of life or history reflect a realistic image and subtle narrative about the subject. The results are breathtaking. Asked if he sees a division between science and art, Paul reminds me of one of the greatest classical artists and scientists, his idol, Leonardo Da Vinci, who flowed between one and the other, “as one feeds into the other.” Paul also cited the eccentric creatives in the mathematics department of Sydney University as one of the most inspiring he’s witnessed, despite their deshabille… With four children nearly grown, a busy life is a given, yet he remains intensely interested in all his projects. A commission is always undertaken in very close collaboration so there are ‘no surprises’ with the finished piece. He comes to these through an agent, word of mouth or chance encounter. Often confined to finely defined briefs, they hang in corporate headquarters, lounge rooms or chapels. Research and spending time to become familiar with the subject is crucial, he submits sketches or oil cameos and sets to work. A month or two later, the work is finished. The freedom to paint himself is cathartic, “I only have to please myself!”
This pictured work: Self Portrait #2 Dark Night of the Soul, he fondly feels reflects his sombre mood, painted while bereaving his father nearly a decade ago. It was a finalist in the Archibald Prize 2010.
Paul reminds me a painting is a handmade creation, with nothing mechanical about it. He likens himself to being an editor, interpreting and editing details that are meaningful, setting it firmly apart from photography. He also admits to feeling the insecurity of a painter, with a final listing, gallery or competition award being a stamp of approval that is “just lovely!” With Kylie Minogue, Maggie Tabberer, John Doyle, John Laws, Kate Fischer, Alan Jones, Roy and HG, among others, he has been in interesting company.
You will recognise many of his works, including his gorgeous 2013 Christmas postage stamps, at paulnewton.com.au Just one of many fabulous creative souls who enrich the Hills!