A Sense of Play: Paul Cox

'Sea saw' bronze by Paul Cox
'Sea saw' bronze by Paul Cox

The art world has been accused of taking itself too seriously, so it is refreshing to discover an artist whose work has a tongue-in-cheek approach. Nicholas Toovey meets Paul Cox, an award-winning sculptor whose work is based around play.

Paul Cox in front of 'Ahoy'
Paul Cox in front of 'Ahoy'
'Token' polychrome resin by Paul Cox
'Token' polychrome resin by Paul Cox
'Looking for the promise land' stoneware with glaze and oxides by Paul Cox
'Looking for the promise land' stoneware with glaze and oxides by Paul Cox
'City Cuts' corten steel and Polyurethane paint by Paul Cox
'City Cuts' corten steel and Polyurethane paint by Paul Cox
Detail of 'Colour of Shade' by Paul Cox
Detail of 'Colour of Shade' by Paul Cox

Paul was born in Sussex and lived in Partridge Green throughout his childhood. He recalls being painfully shy whilst attending Steyning Grammar School, but it was here that he was encouraged to explore art. Loving the hands-on approach he says “art was the only thing I excelled in”, perhaps the freedom of this subject acted as escapism for the young dyslexic student. With the support of his encouraging parents, Paul then fell onto an artistic path, relieved and pleased that there was a route he could explore. He attended a foundation course at Northbrook College before attending the Winchester School of Art leaving with a BA (hons) first class degree in Fine Art Sculpture. People soon started to talk about his work and through his art he had the voice to communicate without actually saying a word. With every new skill, material mastered or method of working came more enthusiasm and self-belief. A postgraduate MA followed at the Royal Academy Schools. Attributable to the great tutors and the knowledge and confidence they imbued upon him, Paul embraced his new visual vocabulary and was excited by it.

Having left the county for his education, Paul returned and settled in Newhaven and states “if you have ever lived near the Sussex coast something always brings you back to the area”. Here, his double garage is his studio and the front and back garden become an ever changing exhibition space. For Paul his sculpture is part of him and therefore it is not unusual to have it surrounding him, passers-by who gather around his front garden however, are obviously not quite as used to it. Does Sussex inspire him? Definitely, he loves the landscape, particularly the Downs, the fields with ploughed tracks forming natural patterns, the richness of colour, particularly in spring with the lime greens contrasting with the blue skies. He loves it all, including the more industrial side of Brighton which has a magical reflected light from the sea. Paul is a part-time tutor at Northbrook College where he teaches full-time foundation students and runs an evening course in sculpture techniques. Becoming a teacher proved to himself that his childhood inhibitions of speaking in public are pretty much a distant memory.

Paul works in a very visual way, “I collect my everyday experiences in notebooks in the form of drawings, notes and scraps of paper. I believe it is important to ‘play’, physical or intellectual play is involved in anything that is created. With an open mind to materials and a persistent investigative attitude anything is possible. I like to be surprised; many great things have come from mistakes and accidents”. Always wanting to see a sculpture in three-dimensions he makes small models which he can later scale-up. Using cardboard, bubble wrap and paper, Paul creates the moulds for his final vision, turning ephemeral material into valuable works of art. From such small beginnings works such as ‘City Cuts’ have begun, the finished version reaching over 2 meters high and weighing literally a tonne. His largest work to date was ‘Ahoy’ a 6.5 meter high bulbous ‘toy’ boat perched on a table beside a chair, this 6 tonne sculpture has travelled across land to its new home in the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia.

Paul’s sculpture and drawings generally have underlying humour portrayed in varying degrees of subtlety. Even those that may seem serious might have been made in a quirky way or have a twist of sorts. One of his main stimuli for creating is this injection of humour – it makes him smile to bring visions from his own world into ours. His offbeat approach is a considered contradiction to some other art that leaves him cold, mainly due to its dry and sometimes uninviting facade. Paul has produced corporate commissions since leaving the RA Schools, but recently he has been asked to produce commissions for private individuals. ‘Colours of Shade’ was a sculpture for one such project and he enjoyed the challenges of working to a “down-to-earth” realistic budget yet still creating a sculpture that fulfilled the collectors requirements.

Art should provoke emotions and enrich our lives. Paul offers sculpture with an undeniable boyish charm that is infectious to the onlooker. It is virtually impossible not to smile at, or interact with, his idiosyncratic style. Paul’s sculpture thrives on a sense of play, but his work should not be disregarded as a novelty. He is a dedicated artist who consciously chooses not to take himself too seriously, providing a breath of fresh air to the contemporary art market.

For more visit www.paul-cox.co.uk

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in March 2012.

Kings, Queens and Prints

Portrait of King Henry VIII
Lot 235: Engraving by Cornelis Massijs, Portrait of King Henry VIII

The Sale of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours and Prints on the 21st March 2012 includes a Single-owner Collection of Portrait Prints.  The collection offers works printed in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and relates chiefly to the royalty, nobility and notable figures of the eras.

The 75-lot collection includes an engraving by Cornelis Massijs of King Henry VIII (Lot 235).  Massijs (or Massys, as his surname is sometimes spelt) was born in Antwerp but was banished from the city later in life.  While living in exile in England he produced this print in 1544, which was reprinted in the year of the King’s death.  It is a contemporary image of the Tudor King late in life, portraying Henry VIII with emphasis on his authority.  Massijs shows his imposing figure and carefully designed clothes, wearing an elegantly embroidered doublet and a sumptuous fur collar. The full-frontal pose is probably loosely based on Hans Holbein’s portrait of the sitter a decade earlier.

Another impressive engraving in the sale (Lot 240) depicts Queen Elizabeth I standing full length, holding an orb and sceptre.  Anthony Griffiths in The Print in Stuart Britain states: “This is the finest of the engraved portraits of Queen Elizabeth.  It was published soon after her death in 1603, as is shown by the chronogram in the upper left.”  The engraving is after Isaac Oliver, a miniaturist born in Rouen and brought to England as a child (for a portrait of the artist, see Lot 232).  This print is the culmination of the partnership between Hans Woutneel in London and Crispijn van de Passe I, then in Cologne.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
Lot 240: Engraving by Crispijn van de Passe after Isaac Oliver, Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Crispijn van de Passe the Elder was a Dutch printmaker and founder of a dynasty of engravers.  The second generation of van de Passe engravers – Simon, Crispijn II, Willem and Magdalena – are all also represented in the private collection, including famous images of Princess Pocahontas (Lot 251) and the Gunpowder Plot Conspirators (Lot 259).  The Single-owner Collection of Portrait Prints serves almost as a Who’s Who of the 1500s onwards.  The majority of the collection centres around kings, queens and their families, represented from Henry VIII to Queen Victoria.  Other notable figures are also depicted in the portrait engravings, such as Richard [Dick] Whitington and his cat (Lot 233), the Elizabethan explorer Francis Drake (Lots 248, 249 & 250), Robert Dudley (Lot 246), Francis Bacon (Lot 260) and depictions of the curious character of Old Tom Parr (Lot 269), who reputedly lived to the age of 153!

This immensely interesting collection will be offered at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms, just off the A24 between Worthing and Horsham, on 21st March. To view the online catalogue for the sale, or to find out viewing times, visit www.tooveys.com

William Lionel Wyllie Etchings in Toovey’s March Auction

The Sale of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours and Prints on the 21st March 2012 includes a single-owner collection of works by William Lionel Wyllie, offered for sale by auction in 28 lots at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms.

Wyllie was born in 1851 into an artistic family, studying art at Heatherley’s in 1865 and at the RA Schools 1866-1869, winning the Turner medal in 1869.  He worked as an illustrator for The Graphic and exhibited extensively.  He was elected R.I., A.R.A., A.R.E., R.E. and R.A.  In 1906, Wyllie moved to Portsmouth, where he lived for many years.  His panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar hangs in the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.  Wyllie died in London in 1931.

He is best remembered for his maritime works and the W.L. Wyllie signature is almost synonymous with etchings of the River Thames and the Solent.  The fashion-led world of art, however, has a habit of changing and Wyllie was not always as collected as he is today.  In 1929, during the period of etching revival, James Laver in A History of British and American Etching described his prints as “a wealth of detail seen through a haze of romance.”  In 1981, Kenneth Guichard in British Etchers 1850-1950 states rather critically: “Only a few years ago print dealers shamefacedly produced them [Wyllie etchings] from bottom drawers at a pound a time, together with [other] near throw-outs.”  Today, he is a highly collected name and the prices achieved for his etchings regularly outshine those achieved for the works of many of his contemporaries, including some of the founders of the etching revival in Britain, such as Francis Seymour Haden.

William Lionel Wyllie etching, 'The City of London'
Lot 6, 'The City of London', trial proof etching by William Lionel Wyllie

In the selection of prints, Lot 6 is a true rarity for the William Lionel Wyllie collector.  ‘The City of London’ is an etching in trial state with only partially etched details, the rest of the image composed with pencil and watercolour in a much freer stylistic way.  This trial proof would have been used to map out the finished print and, as such, is a unique version of this image and carries a presale estimate of £400-600.  The collection also includes prints of the Solent, prints of military interest and prints of picturesque views along the Thames, many featuring London landmarks, such as Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  There is also one original watercolour in the collection (Lot 13).  Somewhat unusually, though, Wyllie’s watercolours tend to achieve the same price levels as his etchings at auction.

To view the William Lionel Wyllie collection (Lots 1-28) in our auction of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours and Prints, click here.

Invitation to Enter the Selection Process

The Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction has been announced for Saturday, July 21st 2012.

Artists wishing to participate in this exciting event are invited to enter the selection process.  The sale consists solely of work entered by self-representing artists. The final selection will be made by event organiser Nicholas Toovey once the deadline of 30th March has passed.

The Contemporary Art Auction is now in its sixth year and continues to gather momentum, it is now considered to be a major platform for artists to showcase their work in Sussex.  The auction this year will be preceded by an exhibition at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery between the 1st June and 7th July.

If you are interested in participating, but would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact Nicholas (via the email button on the top bar), who will be happy to provide further information and a catalogue from last year’s auction should you require. Click here for testimonials from other artists or click here for testimonials from a few of our buyers.  If you think your art has what it takes to be chosen for this year’s auction and would like to enter the selection process you will need to email images of the work you would like to submit (up to a maximum of ten) with sizes and a price list of suggested reserves by 30th March 2012.  Images should be supplied in a JPEG format and do not have to be professional photographs – snapshots will suffice.  This, along with a CV and any other information you feel would be relevant, will allow Nicholas Toovey to make an informed decision on whom to represent this year.

Below is a selection of works sold in the 2011 auction, as you can see the auction includes sculptures, ceramics and paintings, in addition to hand-created prints, photographs and metalwork.