Paul Senyol’s paintings are a study of humanity through his experiences of place. The artist spends his time painting and commuting by bicycle and skateboard through the landscape of his city. His daily encounters with the life of the street remains a turnkey source of artistic inspiration for him. Peculiar to his city, Cape Town, is the Table Mountain range that disrupts the urban sprawl while being part of that same urban landscape. As such, a wonderer can traverse concrete, sandstone, river and drainpipes in an easy mile, as the crow flies. There is an archaeology at work in Senyol’s painting process. An artistic excavation of place.
Lockdown in April of 2020 banished Senyol from this favourite pastime. He was confined to an interior, to home and studio with his family in Woodstock. No outdoors. This was a particular challenge to the artist whose entire oeuvre is based on the sketches he makes during his meanderings. Global narratives turned to that of disaster and personal narratives turned to grief. Senyol began to engage in chance collages from the collection of magazines in his studio. By dragging a blade through the magazine pages, he sourced a kind of image tile from which he could build new compositions. Like refracted reflections of an upside-down world outside his home, these collages became a new album of site from which line and form could be translated onto canvas. From there the painting process built these images anew with texture, mark and colour.
Subscribing to the same process as his other works, but drawn from different sources, these lockdown paintings are being displayed for the first time in a gallery context. They were initially presented on SalonNinetyOne’s online platform in March this year. Senyol has had a long and fruitful relationship with gallery owner and curator, Monique Foord and he owes much of his progression in medium, palette and scale to Foord’s guidance. “She brought me through my teenage years,” Senyol muses. “It was through our exchanges that I became an artist.”
The collection of paintings in ‘Of Place and Time’ pay tribute to this extraordinary mentorship. Woven within the new curatorship of his works Barnard is a look at paintings that traverse a particular period: 2019 to 2022. Senyol describes the selection as an album of experiences in paint. The works are autobiographical in inception but these autobiographical events are obscured by Senyol’s painting process such that the task of archaeology returns to us in how we receive these visual maps. Memory and narrative are hinted at in titles and graphic orientations in the same way that a flaneur can read the banality of the street, where car tire imprints on a curb and broken glass shards suggest the criminal or blundering.
Landscapes and objects populate the fields of Senyol’s compositions. Each work is a painted analysis of place. In some parts that analysis seems reductive as conventional perspective and trompe l’oeil are cast aside in favour of manifesting a procreative stage for the impulsive mark or the additive scrawl. Characterised by curious planes of colour, gestural marks inspired by graffiti and more intimate, child-like crayon scribblings, Senyol’s paintings are rich textural surfaces that allude to an imaginative excavation in search of the anthropogenic.