Aston, Paul


Throughout my working life I have acknowledged the place of my birth in the village of Awre, on the River Severn in the Forest of Dean, West Gloucestershire. 

My current studio is geographically close, in the Forest. I came back, which was not intentional.

At Gloucester City Art College from 1964-67, I spent the majority of my time drawing and painting in the life studios. The current Pop Art movement was an early influence; pure, flat colour and uncompromising imagery was electric at the time. I can still see it in the work I’m doing now.  The resulting collection of work secured a place at Leicester College of Art (bypassing the academic qualification system which I couldn’t get right) where I continued painting and drawing for a further three years. I was awarded a First Class Degree and a travel scholarship to Italy. I owe a lot to Albert Pountney, Head of the Fine Art Faculty at Leicester, for getting me those three years in spite of the prevailing system.

As a post-graduate student I worked at Chelsea School of Art where I established a break from easel painting making my first wood and mixed media reliefs. I was awarded an MA.

In 1971 I gained a place at the British School in Rome as an Abbey Major Scholar in Painting. It was a very fertile time of transition and experiment, working through the environment and sensations of Italy at speed. My place was renewed in 1972. There are areas of the work I did then that I could have developed for years, and even now I could use some of the technical ideas I developed then. 

I travelled a bit while I was there, looking at art and architecture; the Topkapi Palace and mosques of Istanbul, Athens, Delphi and north through Macedonia and what was then Yugoslavia; Gaudi in Barcelona, Titian and Goya in Madrid and to Toledo looking for the ghost of El Greco.

From 1973-74 I worked as lecturer in painting at the Aegean School of Fine Art on the island of Paros in the Cyclades. Teaching American college students in a very quiet environment compared to Rome, there I began to look in greater depth at the land-seascape. I had always drawn landscape wherever I might be and my painted work had become sterile, so I painted landscape.

Returning to England I lived in the village of Ashleworth, north of Gloucester right on the Severn. I painted the river landscape. The year I spent there seems more important to me now than any other place I had worked. It re-connected me with the earliest moments at Awre, through the hills and streams of Upton St Leonards on the scarp of the Cotswolds to the water meadows of West Gloucestershire.  I shed my student influences and was found by the fields and water. 

Moving to farms north of Monmouth on the Welsh Border I found myself by another river, the Monnow. For ten years I painted all over the river valley and hills till I painted my way out of two dimensions (again), making sculpture incorporating landscape elements. 

For the past thirty years I have lived in the Forest of Dean, working out images and walking the work at the river’s edge.

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