On bringing playfulness back to everyday life
Bringing playfulness back to everyday life
Paul Schrader’s paintings begin with an impulse; a feeling. There is no plan, or process, but a desire to make thoughts and emotions tangible. “My paintings are abstract. I feel things, and I aim to recreate those feelings with the interplay of colours on canvas,” says Paul.
The Hamburg-based artist always begins his paintings with a vague idea of how things should look, but he allows space for “randomness” too. For Paul, creativity happens at the margins: those delicate moments in between thoughts. “Before the coronavirus, I travelled quite frequently, and always took a lot of photographs as inspiration for my work. My mind would be filled with ideas, but when I came back from a trip, I’d sometimes sit in my studio and nothing would happen,” recalls Paul. Then, on a still and silent afternoon, he’d suddenly feel a spark: an idea, a feeling would take hold. “Ideas are like a wave: they keep coming, but you just never know when.”
‘My only wish is that viewers stop, stare and be touched for a moment.’
Paul Schrader, 2021
‘I thought to myself, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do your art, so just leap.’
Paul Schrader, 2021
The freedom to let ideas spill out onto a canvas is ultimately what drives Paul. While he has painted “ever since he can remember,” he chose to study law in Germany for nine years after leaving high school and eventually worked for a British law firm for six years after that. All the while he was painting — on evenings, weekends, or whenever he could get the time. “It was like having two full-time jobs,” he says, and eventually he had to choose between them.
“The turning point was when I decided on a whim to go to an art fair to exhibit my work, and within four days, my pieces were sold out,” says Paul. It was then that he realised he had a chance to make it as an independent artist — to leave behind the comfort of the legal world and step out into the unknown. “As a lawyer, you read all these contracts and draft all these twisted sentences, and everything is very formal and contained. And then you come to the studio, and you’re absolutely free. I thought to myself, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do your art, so just leap.”
And he did. In 2019, Paul quit his legal job for the more precarious life of an independent artist, but he’s never regretted his decision. Now, Paul has “made a world in his studio” in Hamburg where there are no limits, facts, or rights and wrongs, and he paints to bring playfulness and joy back to everyday life. “Playing as an adult is really rare because society tells us that we have to do something that is productive. To react to that by creating something that doesn’t really make sense is such a good feeling.”
Paul’s creative process requires a degree of quietness and concentration, which is why Hamburg is the perfect place for him to live. The city is small and peaceful — “like a little village, where you can work in your own quiet zone” — but it’s not too far from the artistic capital of Berlin. Hamburg is also the place to be in Germany to find collectors who are “hungry for art” and are willing to pay a hefty price for it.
Berlin, on the other hand, has fewer collectors, but a more connected community of artists who come from all over the world. The city, for now, is cheap compared to other European capitals — so it’s easy to have a high quality of life on little cash. But it can be an overwhelming place too, says Paul. “Berlin is the place to meet like-minded people from everywhere, to participate in events day-to-night, and party around the clock. But when I had a studio there I never felt in the mood to paint. It takes a lot of focus and time, and in Berlin, I was always distracted.”
That’s why he chooses to spend most of his time in his Hamburg oasis while travelling to Berlin once or twice a month. Paul has exhibited his work many times in the German capital: in spaces such as König Galerie in the trendy district of Kreuzberg, and Canvas Galerie — which, in true Berlin style, is located in an underground tunnel at Potsdamer Platz station. Paul also held his own solo exhibition in Berlin last summer in Prenzlauer Berg, a rather posh and leafy district in former East Berlin. Whether people buy his paintings or not, however, is beside the point, says Paul. “My only wish is that viewers stop, stare and be touched for a moment.”
‘As a lawyer, you read all these contracts and draft all these twisted sentences, and everything is very formal and contained. And then you come to the studio, and you’re absolutely free.’
Paul Schrader, 2021