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I Often Smile for Selfies

2020 (32" x 24")

photo of the artist padraic south

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photo of the artist padraic south painting
photo of the artist padraic south painting Cubist Vanity
photo of the artist padraic south

The dreaded artist bio…

I am hardly the conventional, MFA artist… so what to say?

There is the usual, highbrow option of a long CV listing a couple of distinguished years in an institution of higher art learning, followed by a list of shows going back to before high school (I was a genius early on and my local Rotary saw it first… hello Tate). A black and white photograph of my non-smiling face (a photo better suited for a romance novelist perhaps) is also included.

This is so not me, and so not my work.

Ok, doubters are saying two things: 1) he has never had a show; 2) he doesn’t have an art education.

First, I’ve had exhibits in New York City, Milan, London and Los Angeles (And, that is just in the last year); and second, I have an education in art much longer than anyone with an MFA.

Let’s see. My art education/apprenticeship pretty much began the year I was born. My father is a modern artist and passionate scholar.

Besides a wonderful art class at Parson’s in Paris, and a technical drawing class in college, my arts education has nothing to do with the four walls of a classroom or the formal guidance of a certified teacher/guru.

Instead, my arts education is a lifelong practice.

For as long as I can remember I have been creating… drawing, painting, and even writing. I was bathed in art and the ideas of great artists since I was a baby. On my first day of school, my older brother and sister had to be called to calm me because painting wasn’t an all-day activity. I didn’t want to do anything else… period.

A year or two later, my parents were called to the school. It seemed second graders were not allowed to express themselves as freely as we were at home. My first critic – my second-grade teacher – panned my first nude. My parents laughed about it the whole way home and for years after. And for those of you looking for one of those early Souths, I have the fine crayon drawing to this day. Funny, my style really has not changed all that much. PS – I have probably sold the same piece to my parents on multiple different occasions. Maybe, I should have become a dealer?

On the sage advice of my artist father, after high school I sought a career outside art, or as he called it a trade. Otherwise known as something I could fall back on when things didn’t work out. Not the biggest endorsement, but I stuck with the art as I tried out a variety of ill-fitted trades…

First, the merchant marine. Great idea for the storie, the image, the people. But military-school style discipline was not a good fit. If only collecting more demerits than anyone ever else ever had was a mark of greatness. It was not.

I went on to Boston, and got a degree in economics from Northeastern (That’s right NU) by the skin of my teeth. I never used the degree as much as I attended classes. I read, sketched and people watched.

Blah, blah, blah. It’s all boring. Who cares? I could go on and on, but it wouldn’t matter. My art is about what is on the paper – what I am working on today, or tomorrow or even yesterday.

When asked to talk about my work, I often think of the Valery quote “We should apologize for daring to speak of art (mangled, I know).” That said, I will make an exception just for you because you read this far so you really must care.

Two years ago, I moved away from a more realistic style of painting, to loose and free paintings on massive canvases laid out on the floor of my studio using oil and enamel paint. I executed my inner critic and tried to go at the world in the way I saw it – as a giant abstract soup.

These “scrolls” marked a departure from the constraint of time in terms of both painting and subject (I was in lockdown and had nowhere else to go). Though there are some paintings I love that I have done before this series (the number is relatively small – I am my own worst critic), this series spoke to me.

Bigger than life size, each has their own story to tell in a minimized world marking the intersection of abstract and figurative but presented like stories in a Chinese scroll. The Chinese scrolls have a way in which they softly twist and shape both time and space in the frame of a single scroll.

These scrolls have given way to a singular focus on the nature of time, a construct we developed to make our lives easier but instead it chips away at us relentlessly. This obsession with time and the erosive effect of time on memory, love, beauty, knowledge, everything, comes through each individual story told.

My work, however, is not focused on the bleak and lonely pain of loss but rather the slow erasure of ego in everything until we are all just the same energy. Nothing lasts forever.

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