Abstract painting affords me another dimension in addition to my figurative painting. It can offer a whole new variety of approaches to the theme and how its communicated.

Abstraction I contemplate more often than produce, I find with the passing of time my concepts gradually refine and becomes focused. I believe my best abstracts remain unpainted, or may even be unpaintable, but I folder sketches and notes for the right time, many revisited and revised over a twenty-year plus period.

The transition is often difficult when the time comes to paint these concepts, as, when the idea becomes material, my connection with the process of painting and the theme must remain harmonious.

Narrative Band Paintings

2014 oil on canvas


‘Road’ 2013 oil on canvas (with marble gesso elements), 300 mm x 1200 mm.



‘Gone’ 2013 oil on canvas (with marble gesso elements), 300 mm x 1200 mm.

The triptych format holds a strong appeal to me with the multiple panel arrangement fulfilling context in storyboard fashion. The ‘narrative band’ paintings demonstrate a progression in form by observing them progressively like the written page. The series is painted to evoke a narrative development in this manner.



‘neoclassical epithelium’.  2013,  oil on canvas, 300 mm x 300 mm.



‘neoclassical proteins’.  2013,  oil on canvas, 300 mm x 300 mm.

Two works inspired by an Ingres portrait.

Most of my abstract paintings use a square format. I find this compounds abstraction as it removes the proscenium’s narrative effect, the rectangle with its vertical/portrait or horizontal/landscape staging.


Pentelic, Winckelmann edition. 2013,  oil on canvas (with marble gesso ground),  400 mm x 400 mm.

Colours in the final glaze include genuine malachite, ochre and grapevine black; part of the palette historically used for the decoration of classical Greek statuary. The canvas is textured with a genuine white marble gesso mix to give a gestural flow below the paint layers.



Counterintuitive adaptation. oil on canvas (with marble gesso ground),  600 mm x 600 mm.

Titian is said to have commented about a red robe he painted, he said that “the red was about as good as he could make it but it would really be right in thirty years”. I like this understanding of the progressive effects of time on a work in delivering an ideal state. Likewise, in ‘Centered, counterintuitive adaptation’, (and ‘Nurture, organic’), I have used genuine red carmine, an organic colour which will be in a gradual state of flux as its colourific intensity changes over time. Coherent to the theme, this poetic state of change is a considered aspect of these works. The use of this rare organic colour came through sourcing a small quantity of the genuine pigment and patiently making it into an oil paint.


(Red Carmine pigment being worked into linseed oil with a glass plate and muller.)

Reservoir Series

2014 oil on canvas


Four Thresholds, left to right, ‘Begins’, ‘Acknowledges conciousness’, ‘(pauses) Looks sideways’, ‘(all) Dims’.

One Conduit, ‘(looks sideways) Admires environment’.

2014-16, oil on canvas, Threshold panels each 400 mm x 400 mm, Conduit 300 mm x 1200 mm.



@20, February 2013, oil on canvas, 300 mm x 300 mm, (left)

@40, August 2013, oil on canvas, 300 mm x 300 mm, (centre)

@80, November 2013, oil on canvas (with marble gesso ground), 300 mm x 300 mm, (right)



Ablation, Roman version.  2013,  oil on canvas (with marble gesso elements), 400 mm x 400 mm.



Ablation, Greek version.  2013,  oil on canvas (with marble gesso elements), 400 mm x 400 mm.



Nurture, organic.  2013,  oil on canvas, 600 mm x 600 mm.



Source, earth.  2013,  oil on canvas, (with marble gesso elements, lapis lazuli and malachite) 600 mm x 600 mm.

In my abstract paintings, historic techniques afford me numerous processes to fulfil the narrative. Using the gestural texture of marble gesso in the foundation layers along with the age-old techniques of under painting below the principle painted surface, then glazing over with transparent veils of pigment applied over the surface. Most or all of these techniques are used in my abstract paintings. They not only maintain a composed control over the composition but also yield their own complimentary aesthetic.

Substrate Series

2008    oil on canvas


Substrate II, Carrara, 2008, oil on canvas, 500 mm x 500 mm.

In this series of paintings, abstraction highlights the principle “no singular correct interpretation”. “I composed this series with the concept that materials may possess a whole range of application, for instance with the panel ‘Carrara marble’, this archetypal material which may be commonplace as functional surface in buildings, was also the marble used by Michelangelo in his iconic sculptures“.


Substrate IV, Paper, 2009, oil on canvas, 500 mm x 500 mm.



Substrate I, Steel (Damascus) 2008, oil on canvas 500 mm x 500 mm.


Substrate III, Parchment, 2009, oil on canvas, 500 mm x 500 mm.



Some early works

1991 – acrylic on board

I have sourced some of his earlier works as reference for this site.


Black triptych, 1994, acrylic and mixed media, 750 mm x 750 mm.



Yellow triptych, (triptych in closed position, antiqued, outer casing with hinged doors) 1991, acrylic and wax on board, 500 mm x 500 mm. (closed)



Yellow triptych, (open), 1991, acrylic on board, 1000 mm x 500 mm.



Book, 1992, acrylic on board, 600 mm x 600 mm.



Untitled ’balance’ 1991, acrylic on board, 300 mm x 800 mm.

All Images & Content © 2010 Paul Mowbray