Paul Copeland is an artist from Paisley whose work is often abstract and, at other times, illustrative. He has exhibited with Zaina al Hizami in London and previously at Six Foot Gallery in 2018. He describes his work as embodying the self-coined term of ‘saturationism’:

‘The intention with saturationism is to envelop the eye in too many places to go at once. It is about what is occurring between the eye and the mind when you view the piece. You scramble to make sense of the image, finding yourself drawn to certain areas. So you reorient your vision, or blur your eyes slightly, or are forcibly drawn to the detail in the piece. You then may trace across the detail in the piece and find a narrative is woven into it. You may take a step back. In essence, a complaint that there is ‘no focal point’ or that the image is badly structured is often intentional. This style of work is inspired by nature itself – when you gaze at a leaf, there is no end to the detail, only the point at which your eye can no longer interpret said detail. When we gaze upon anything, no matter how bland, our synapses are scrambling to make sense of it. This work reflects a process that is occurring in the brain.‘

As it pertains to saturationism, the micro is the dots and dashes. The macro is the gestural content, and the descriptions of objects in space. The meta is an understanding of how these elements may be perceived from different vantage points, and what that means for the piece as it sits in space.

Hi Paul! Can you elaborate on the significance or symbolism of the chosen title of your exhibition?
I think ‘Overflow’ is a nice encapsulation of sensory reaction to a feeling of sensory
overload. The human experience of living in a city or metropolitanism is somewhat unnatural, although it certainly has its benefits; we all find ways to cope, and the work displayed shows ways in which each artist does so.

How did you arrive at the theme of your exhibition?
Chris and I share a lot of similarities in our approach to art practice – there are a lot of illustrative elements and abstract in different measures, and in both instances, the work tends to be quite dense with detail, and Ainsley’s contrasts this in that it’s almost a response to overstimulation of the environment around her – modernity as it were, by making things calmer. It seemed like a good frame to regard the work as being responsive to the external environment as that is something all our practices have in common; reactions to the sensory experience of modernity.

Can you walk us through your creative process?
The work exhibited is varied and some are even commissions from musicians. In those instances the brief is theirs and I am interpreting it. However, the main way I work now is with gestures or something very simple like a collection of shapes and then expanding the form. I usually am immersive and like to spend a few weeks on one piece. There’s a lot of stream of consciousness going on too, for better or worse.

How do you overcome creative blocks?
Usually by walking in nature, or if I’ve exhausted myself I opt to take time out from the particular thing. Move to another process like playing the piano. For some of these pieces, the process was over a long period, not proudly or intentionally but because it’s hard to access the concentration and focus required to execute what I wanted. This is developing over time regardless. I view my work as a series of experiments. Much like MC Escher did. A lot of the time I can look at something and say I have failed to achieve what I intended, but it’s now an interesting example of my process, and that is what I am choosing to exhibit. This isn’t the case from piece to piece, but certainly for ‘Fibre’ it is, or for ‘Agri Cultura’. For ‘Agri Cultura’, if I look back at the original outline drawing, I feel as if I could have called it finished before I added colour.

Which artists inspire you? Are there non-artistic influences such as literature or music that impact your work?
MC Escher is a huge inspiration to me, his work is astonishing in a technical sense and how he deals with composition and the formation of ideas. I’m a huge fan of Bridget Riley’s work, and also Frank Bowling and Mark Rothko. Frank Bowling’s retrospective at the Tate in 2019
blew me away. I’ve never seen art quite like that. Kandinsky, Dali and Szukalski are also influences. Szukalski is a very odd and controversial figure. Still, his technical expertise and his determination to go his own way with his crooked ideals generated some work that is fascinating to look at.

Jazz music is a massive influence on me. I grew up around jazz, and the form is often
misunderstood as purely improvisational. Particularly Bill Evans is an enormous source of
inspiration for me. Here are two quotes from him that speak for themselves:

“[in regards to jazz as a practice] It’s performing without any set basis for the lines and the content as such emotionally or, specifically, musically. And if you sit down and contemplate what you’re going to do, and take five hours to write five minutes of music, then it’s composed music. Therefore I would put it in the classical or serious, whatever you want to call it, written-music category. So there’s composed music and there’s jazz. And to me, anybody that makes music using the process that we are using in jazz, is playing jazz.”

“Jazz is the art of spontaneous creation in the moment.”

Overflow’ runs at Six Foot Gallery until Tuesday 23rd April. You can see more of Paul’s work on his Instagram @paul.copeland_

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