Paul Rees was born in Pontypool in 1971 and brought up in Neath where is still lives.He has pursued a career in art since 2005 when he quit a career as a primary school teacher to study fine art at Swansea Metropolitan University; he graduated with first class honours in 2008. Paul has exhibited regularly at the Attic Gallery since 2007 and is known for his moody back stage theatre paintings. Many of these depict Neath Little Theatre, where he has acted, designed stage sets and worked as a stage manager for many years.
“I used to sit there at the side of the stage thinking it would make a wonderful painting,’” he says. “You’re there in the gloom with all the clutter and equipment stacked up and you’ve got the glow from the stage lighting spilling backstage slightly and you see the actors waiting silently in the wings looking very excited and very pensive - it can be wonderfully evocative.”
When he started his art degree he decided to make the theatre his subject, and it has remained the main focus of his work ever since. He has discovered that the particular mood of an actor waiting to go on stage cannot be replicated after the event.
“I discovered the best way to capture an actor waiting in the wings is to be there at the time because the atmosphere’s so very different from in a rehearsal,” he says.
In order to capture these moments, Paul has learnt to sketch and take photographs discretely during performances.
The resulting paintings have an atmosphere and tension that echoes the work of painters such as Walter Sickert and Edward Hopper, both of whom have influenced him strongly. People are often drawn to Paul’s paintings because they seem to belong to another time.
“A lot of people have told me that my pictures have a nostalgic feel – I think because the actors sitting in the wings might have 1950s dress, but also because the theatre is a very atmospheric little building that I suppose has remained largely unchanged over the last 50 years,” he says.
Nostalgia looks set to be a perennial theme in Paul’s work: photographs from the 1950s and 60s inspired some of his latest pieces.
“I am very nostalgic,” he admits. “I have a good memory for my childhood growing up in the 70s and 80s and it translates into my work.”
This article related to his first exhibition at the Attic Gallery which ran from March 19 until April 9, 2011.