Paul Arnold has a gallery in the CBD of Darwin which he has been running since 2008. A photographer for 15 years, he branched out into abstract aerial art in 2016. Paul’s aim is to bring out the narratives he sees in landscapes with a personal combination of photography and digital painting. Here, Paul talks about the inspiration he draws from nature and how he has progressed from photographer to artist.
What do you love most about living in Darwin?
Living in Darwin as an artist means I have access to inspirational material within arm’s reach at all times. Just five minutes’ drive from home I can head out with my boat which gives me access to amazing beaches and river systems. Then in just a few hours’ drive there is the waterfalls of Kakadu or Litchfield. The variety of natural experiences to draw on as an artist are endless. The best thing about living in Darwin is while I’m drawing on the environment around me for inspiration I might also have a crab pot out to catch a muddie or maybe I’ll flick a line or a barra. Best of both worlds, I reckon.
What is the best thing about the Tropical Summer?
The rain and storm shows. There’s the flash of lightning, the rumble of thunder, and the building intensity as the storm move towards you in the tropical heat. Then for a few minutes before the storm hits the outflow rush of wind cools things down, the skies open up and down comes the rain. It’s that cooling wind and the knowing expectation of the impending rain that only a local understands which makes the wet season an amazing time of year.
What's something you can only do during the Tropical Summer?
In the Tropical Summer (or wet season as it's known) it’s all about nature and its raw power. This power is very visual and inspiring. It might be the thundering waterfalls that shed a volume of water, which has to be seen to be understood, having a barbecue at home watching a lightning show approach or the vivid and explosive sunsets that only happen during this time. Flying over the floodplains and waterfalls in full flood shows the sheer volume of water. It’s only then can you understand what it means to have two-plus metres of rain fall.
What is your project for the Tropical Light Exhibition?
I created an instillation in which the viewer has the sensation of walking on clouds while watching a vista disappear off into the distance. The Northern Territory is a vast landscape of spectacular, breath-taking landscapes which can take years to traverse. To truly understand this grandeur we need to be airborne, in the clouds looking down.
Public art is about discussion, and one of the ideas behind the project is to create an immersive experience that gets people talking. I have an aerial view of Nourlangie Creek and if you look closely you can see little tinnies on the water. Fishing is one of the favourite past-times of the Territory, so there’s an element of realism as well as abstraction that viewers will be able to relate to.
What prompted you to transition from photography to art?
I was taken for a ride in an ultralight aeroplane one day and had my Phase One camera with me at the time. I don’t like heights, my fingers were frozen from the cold and the only way to get a good shot was to hang out the side with my camera parallel to the ground. It was dangerous and terrifying but on that day my limited edition art collection began.
Art is more than capturing a moment be it with a camera, a paintbrush or a pencil. It’s about seeing, anticipating and activating the artists chosen medium at the right time for the right moment with feeling, consideration and thought. I realised back then that my work was more than just capturing a light on a sensor.
How have you developed as an artist?
Since I left school in 1989, I have travelled the outback and trained my eye unknowingly and without a camera. This was followed by 15 years as a photographer studying light, composition and shooting with these considerations at the forefront of my thoughts.
For years I thought of myself as a photographer and never as an artist but after my lightbulb moment, so to speak, in the ultralight aeroplane I transitioned into developing my aerial digi-art. Life experience, great friends, great advice and a willingness to learn and push the boundaries has also led me to enter the second phase of my photography career as an artist.
My artwork, Explosion, best highlights my growth as an artist as well as capturing geographical and personal explosion. This piece bursts with colour, and I love colour. Colour makes me feel happy, full of life and expression and sometimes I need a piece that explodes life and colour, just like the water exploding out on the floodplains.
Personally I created this piece as a fitting end to 2018 because it was a great year and 2019 so far has been even better. For the people who know me, my head is always full of ideas and thoughts as well as a new found passion for what I am doing as an artist. Live life with passion and vigour and go hard at everything you do is my motto. That’s me and this explosion of colour is me.
What opportunities has being part of Tropical Light given you?
I used to be a bloke who just ran around the bush with no shoes and covered in mud. So to have the opportunity to further my work as an artist and play with the idea of abstract aerials in an exhibition in the city has been such an honour. I've also managed to collaborate with other local creatives in Darwin - Lulu and Daw and Maltida Alegria - for the Tropical Light volunteer uniform and have branded Tropical Light umbrellas and fans with my landscape art.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Stop and enjoy the moment. It is easy to have your breath taken away by the raw power of Darwin’s wet season but the real beauty is when you stop and use all your senses to understand and then reflect those emotions in your work. How do you portray the smell of rain cooling a floodplain, the blinding flash of a lightning bolt or the colours of a brilliant stormy sunset? You have to stop and look at the detail nature puts into the amazing vistas that explode before you.