“I share a large communal studio in the Pittsburgh neighborhood Lawrencville. The studio is called Radiant Hall. The space was built originally as a Polish community center and now houses around 20-23 artists. We hold public Open Studio events about 4 times a year. I’ve been in the space for around a year and a half and for me, having a big open communal space is preferable. I work along side some highly talented and very motivated creative people. I have made stronger work as a result. “
Paul Rouphail grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. He received his BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2010. The past 3 years he has spent living in Lima, Peru and Pittsburgh respectively. In the fall 2014, he will attend the Rhode Island School of Design as an MFA candidate in painting.
FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
PAUL ROUPHAIL: Most of my paintings are oil on canvas or panel. My process begins with collecting a variety of primary and secondary image sources (original photographs, sketches, retail catalogues, etc) and editing them digitally or through small sketches. Through the digital process I can determine scale, and move and create a variety of objects. I usually paint from this “image” until I decide at some point (usually when the painting is 50% complete) that I must make decisions based on what the painting needs, not what the image demands.
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
PR: I don’t keep anything too cherished in my studio. Everything I have can be replaced with a quick stop at the art store. I prefer to have my studio setting and home environment distinct. A plain, predictable studio environment is more conducive to taking risks in my paintings. If the studio is too precious, then the paintings become too precious.
FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?
PR: A t-square ruler.
I try to slip a sort of “time-fullness” in my images.
FYD: What do you find appealing about city life?
PR: There has been a gradual renewal of faith in the efficacy of urban life in this country. The reasons vary from the practical, the transparent, to the platitudinous–my interest in urban dwelling is rooted in what can be seen as the commercial amalgamation of a city’s given formal or historic qualities. In some ways the architecture of a given place will reflect or enhance these tensions.
My paintings attempt to exhibit this tension between nature and culture: billboards, blimps, popular and commercial references punctuate a the city’s architectural fabric. However congruent with or dissonant to their urban and natural surroundings, these elements illuminate the paradox of the aforementioned tensity as a purposeful and uniquely “American” gesture, one that is complicit with commercial possibility and selective historical narrative. I’m interested in the incongruities of modern regionalism within the framework of American realism, not in vernacular painting, or in reviving methods of the American naturalists or precisionists.
I must make decisions based on what the painting needs, not what the image demands.
I’m challenged by the complexities “Americana” continue to propose, as Rem Koolhaas suggests of the city grid: the unoccupied, the phantom, the indiscernible. The city devolves into an empty symbol ”available for meaning as a billboard is for advertisement.”
FYD: What are your favorite American cities?
PR: In general my experiences of cities are variable; and I have had the privilege of living in quite a few. After spending a year in Lima, Peru, I moved back to Pittsburgh, PA where I currently live and work. I love this city for its scenic qualities, its tight-knit group of local artists, and its progression as a relevant cultural zone within the midwest/east coast regions.
FYD: Your scenes are often void of people (except for advertising billboards) and cars and the things which populate most urban landscapes. Are your cities inhabitants vacant or sleeping? What years are we visiting in your work?
PR: I try to engage in what can be described as an uninterrupted apprehension of things in my work. In a sense, I try to slip a sort of “time-fullness” in my images. This is achieved through the active process of editing and reducing information–deleting the figure from the scene for example–and imagining objects and spaces within structures of real places. All of my most recent work is derived from contemporary source material.
FYD: Are some of your paintings paying homage to a golden era on the road and icons of the past – Winstons, Amoco, Jimmy Stewart at the Drive-In. What era are we visiting?
PR: Winston cigarettes and Amoco gas stations for me are not simply relics of a mid-century American past. There was an Amoco station right down the street from house in Chicago when I was a kid. The company had their headquarters downtown. Winton cigarettes are historically from Winston-Salem, NC (only about an hour from Raleigh). When I used to live in Lima, Peru I remember seeing them for sale on every street corner, in every bodega and bar. In some ways, those early paintings of American iconography was a way of cataloging my experiences with these objects. My connection with the advertising world is no different from any other American. There’s something impenetrable about its experiential conjecture and also a feeling of incongruity with its calculated promises.
FYD: What artists (living or dead) have inspired your work?
PR: I look at a great deal of painters and non-painters. The painters/photographers include: Edward Hopper, Rackstraw Downes, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Yvonne Jacquette, Vija Celmins, Ed Rusha, Steven Shore, Robert Adams, Julie Mehretu, Josephine Halvorson, Martha Rosler. Authors and poets: J.M. Coetzee, Rem Koolhaas, Czeslaw Milosz. The list goes on and on.
FYD: What are you working on now?
PR: New paintings in my most recent serious of urban based imagery.