Thursday, February 9, 2017

John Yau essay ...

Second World, 1988 - 90. Paul Harryn
On a Ray of Winter Sun, 2012 - 13  ©  Paul Harryn

 Paul Harryn by John Yau

In his paintings, Paul Harryn investigates a territory that is located somewhere between knowing and imagining, seeing and dreaming. I say "somewhere," because, while the paintings evoke such familiar places as a moonlit lake, they resist becoming depictions of a landscape, a scene of something we might encounter in the world. Harryn's paintings do not propose to be about the natural world, though many of the images populating them resemble "things" we see or have seen. But resemblance can be slippery, a kind of ghost. And it is this slipperiness, this ghostliness, that suffuses through Harryn's paintings.

Among the models of understanding Harryn eludes to, one could include molecular biology, wave theory, Surrealism's belief in dreams, certain aspects of Abstract-Expressionism, neurobiology's attempts to understand memory, and fractal structures. While many of these models, particularly the ones rooted in the sciences, are used to sum up some understanding of perception, Harryn in not content to restate these models in visual terms. Rather, he effectively combines a wide range of disparate information in order to suggest a constantly transmuting world, a world where nothing is ever still.

Lines become traces of light, and, in turn, the traces become vectors of pure force. The fluidly shifting space of the paintings opens out onto vast domains, while at the same time isolating signs of the invisible worlds inhabiting everything we see. It is a world in which numerous events are occurring simultaneously, a place where sudden as well as constant change is the norm.

One could say that Harryn's paintings are like windows opening onto the mind's teeming processes, its on-going activity, its attempt to understand all the manifestations of the world it inhabits. We are reminded that thoughts are constructed of both language and a chain of chemical reactions. We can not have one without the other. In his paintings, Harryn makes scientific images and imaginative instances coincide. The paintings address an impossibility; the brain able to think about itself while attempting to understand the world.

LUAG publication © 1991. Black White, Paul Harryn, Recent Work