Using gathered data as his starting point, Australian artist Paul Snell manipulates, abstracts and refines his source materials to create intensely colourful and hypnotic two-dimensional artworks.
Existing somewhere between digital photography and painting, Snell's works consist of a series of highly stylised lines that are repeated, overlapped, reversed and arranged into seductive, pulsating patterns and forms inspired by op-art, geometric painting and hard-edged abstraction.
Snell favours ambiguity in his works, purposefully omitting any signs, symbols, traditional representations of objects or, in fact, any points of reference, intending to keep the reading of the work as open as possible. Devoid of any particular narrative or apparent subject matter, Snell's artworks are purely self-referential; they are dizzying objects that contain a multitude of images, dissembled, reconfigured and undefinable.
In his 2013 exhibition Decoding New York—shown at Edmund Pearce Gallery in Melbourne in the same year—Snell produced unconventional images derived from five different locations in New York. After choosing the locations on Google Earth, Snell travelled to New York, collected data on them, then subsequently rearranged their visual information into a series of vertical lines, using a post-production process that separated the image into formal elements. The resulting pieces, such as NY #40.70N_73.98W(2013) and NY #40.74N_74.00W (2013) may bare the names of specific geographical locations, but in no way are they recognisable to the audience.
Snell makes colour a feature point of his work, which is characterised by the contrasting tones he uses—such as royal purple next to fire-engine red, midnight black, deep blue and glaring white in Pulse #201603 (2016). His choice of materials—including Lambda print mounted onto Plexiglas—enhances the colours: Lambda printers use a process that prints in continuous colour rather than in the dot pattern common to inkjet printing. This process allows Snell to achieve cleaner, more saturated colours that are fade-resistant and have an intense luminosity rarely seen in digital photographic work. With the pigment actually embedded into the object and enhanced by the transparent layers of Plexiglas, Snell's colours appear to float in an illusionary space, muddying the division between image and object even further and creating truly hypnotic images.
Snell graduated from the University of Tasmania in 1989, where he later completed his Honours and was admitted to the Dean's Roll of Excellence (1995). In 2011, he completed his Master of Creative Arts at the same university. He has exhibited widely throughout Australia—including Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland—and at international venues such as at the Spectrum Art Fair in New York (2013). His work is held in numerous private and public collections in Australia, including Artbank; Devonport Regional Gallery; Burnie Regional Art Gallery and Justin Art House Museum.
Over the years, Snell has been a finalist in numerous national art prizes. In 2012 he won both the Flanagan Art Prize in Ballarat, and the Tidal: City of Devonport National Art Award. In 2015 he was awarded the Moreton Bay Region Art Award and the Whyalla Art Prize.