2015 Paul Mathieson

Paul Mathieson (web)

Paul Mathieson 2015 (photo – Andrew Kierstead)

The jury recognizes Paul Mathieson’s sustained contribution to the long history of western figurative tradition.

Jurors Toby Bruce, Hannah Claus and Francois Morelli lauded the Kingston resident for his work and his many contributions to the cultural fabric of New Brunswick.

While anchored in the local, his work addresses the universal humanist condition of alienation and isolation. The formal complexity of his compositions, combined with the theatrical and performative nature of his narratives distinguish his work in an age where the very nature of painting is questioned.

Mathieson’s keen observation of his immediate environment translates into a dystopic perspective of society at large, giving the work an unsettling contemporary resonance. While the work asks questions, it doesn’t attempt to come up with answers.

To quote the artist “Life is not a sitcom with a problem resolved within a thirty minute screening and neither are my paintings” As an educator, working with secondary students in the public school system for over thirty years, he has directly impacted generations and continues to do so through ongoing projects with youth and community.

In awarding Paul Mathieson the Strathbutler, the jury acknowledges the vitality and importance of an oeuvre which resists the constraints of time and place.

In the artist’s words


Art is not created within a mental vacuum. It is shaped by what has preceded it and the world and time in which the artist lives. By absorbing these influences, and adding to them, something new is created. For me, these influences have been extensive and have incorporated a conglomerate of movements and artistic works – in particular pre Impressionism through to the 20th century work from Manet to Picasso, Beckmann, Kitaj and Fischl. These influences in turn, have become my own, and have been incorporated into my contemporary view of the world.

I paint pictures that reflect something of the human condition. This concept has always been of interest to me and is central to my body of work. The “city” is my source, notably the cities of the Maritimes and in particular Saint John, N.B. and the complexities of urban living. The physical settings for all my work are from drawings I have made of these urban landscapes, often altered, modified and changed to fit the composition of the painting. Having said that, hopefully, my paintings go beyond this scenario and project a universality portraying the urban condition. The human experience encompasses a vast collection of emotional states both positive and negative. These are qualities reflected in varying degrees in all of my work. Often these are composed of little fragments making up the whole.

We operate in a world of iconic references. We are surrounded by signs and symbols which we create and react to in a variety of ways. Some we understand, whereas some are vague. It is this vagueness that perhaps reflects something of the human condition and, possibly, arrives at some sort of truth. Life is not a sitcom with a problem resolved within a thirty minute screening and neither are my paintings.

I believe my work has continued to evolve through each successive series. It has been a journey, unplanned though not uninformed, as I have attempted, at each stage, to build on what has gone before. I believe that as my work has evolved, my technique has grown in sophistication, reflecting the increasing complexity of ideas.