Paul Vincent Bernard creates bare landscapes– abstract shapes, paths, and margins inspired by both urban and natural geography. Dark monoliths and deep black forms are threaded with slender fissures, edged in loose, fast scrawls, and often jut into only the merest slip of pale horizon. Bernard’s sensibilities as a painter are informed by his printmaking training, while his prints frequently have a painterly feel. In both the paintings and prints, one gets a glimpse into an artist whose life has been spent his around ink. In his work heavy structures crowd the borders of the piece, and could be described as minimalist, had the artist not scratched, rubbed, and scribed upon them in a way that leaves the finished pieces with not just gravity, but also energy.
Paul Vincent Bernard was born in Salt Lake City in 1953. Growing up he worked in his family’s stamp and sign shop, doing graphic arts and printing. He began his serious study of art in 1990, earning a BFA in printmaking from the University of Utah in 1995. In 2000 he opened his first art studio, and with the addition of a combination etching and lithography press he upgraded to a fully-equiped print studio in 2003. The current body of oil paintings sprang from his work as a printmaker.
The large buttes and mesas of Utah’s stunning geography provide a starting point for many of Bernard’s paintings. Bernard takes forms, sometimes famous, iconic structures or geographic formations, sometimes personally meaningful forms, and reduces them to bare shapes and masses generally unrecognizable as the originals. The resulting minimalist landscapes are activated with busy crosshatches, scribbles, or scratches.
Process and Media
Bernard begins his aluminum drypoint with enamel-coated aluminum panel, which then he etches with a tooler. When finished with his composition, he rubs oil paint over the piece. The paint remains in the grooves, and shades the enamel. Other paintings begin as wood panels to which he applies thick coats of oil paint, and then scratches marks into the piece while the paint is still wet. Bernard straddles his painting and printmaking worlds as he drags paint, wipes paint, and scribes drypoint lines into his paint. His shapes build up over hours of patient etching, drawing, and scribbling, becoming dense, black, heavy forms frequently edged in lively mark making. Bernard uses photographs from his travels around Utah and around the world as the basis for his abstract forms.
“My work is informed by the landscape that surrounds me. I am most interested in the horizons and verticals that are so common in Utah, particularly in the plateau regions. Perhaps because of my tendency toward minimalism, I enjoy the more subtle landscape. I’m interested in the specific story of a specific place, and that has been the starting point of each work. I take my cues from my travels on the landscape. My themes revolve around post-modern notions of space, place, geography, geology, distance and the passage of time; and while I work towards a minimal and formal statement, quite often my romantic, expressive and even lyrical vision insists on being present in the finished work.”