Paul P. : Amor et Mors at the National Gallery of Canada

Dear Shaded Viewers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul P. when I was co-editor-in-chief of ZOO Magazine. Wish I could find the piece but I am not great with my archives…I remember him telling me how he collected gay erotic magazines which he kept hidden under his bed.

Toronto-based artist Paul P.’s distinctive practice mines the past, forging links between contemporary and historical periods on the cusp of change. His paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings find inspiration in a range of sources: neoclassical sculpture of the 1700s, the art of James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), the arch mannerism of poet Robert de Montesquiou (1855–1921), and storied places such as Venice, Italy, and its contemporary counterpart, Venice Beach, California. The cornerstone of his artistic project is an extensive series of portraits of young men appropriated from pre-AIDS erotic photographs. This series shares an affinity with the work of certain artists of the late 1800s who defied the prevailing morality of their time and furthered a secret language of coded homosexuality.

In this exhibition, a group of thirty recently acquired works created by Paul P. between 2003 and 2019 here act as portals for time travel between art-historical periods. In this way, they form a dialogue with a selection of other artworks from the National Gallery of Canada’s collection.

Paul P. (b. 1977) is an artist living in Toronto. He first gained attention for his drawings and paintings of young men, which systematically re-imagined found erotic photographs along 19th-century aesthetic modes. His portraits are appropriated from gay erotic magazines, specifically those produced in the years bracketed by the beginning of gay liberation and the advent of the AIDS crisis.

Over the years, his interest in transience, desire, cataloguing and notation has expanded his practice to include landscapes and their abstraction, biographical writing, and sculptural works in the form of furniture. He is represented in the collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Hammer Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, and other institutions.

Selected solo exhibitions include: Early Skirmishes, Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen, Norway (2022); Friendly in the Knife-edged Moment, Oakville Galleries, Ontario (2022); Vespertilians, Maureen Paley, London, England (2022); Gamboling Green, Cooper Cole, Toronto (2020); Slim Volume, Queer Thoughts, New York (2019); and Dusks, Lamplights, The Power Plant, Toronto (2007).

Selected group exhibitions include: Houseguest: Shadows Fall Down, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2021); Front International, Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2018); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2014); Compass in Hand, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009); and Crack the Sky: Biennale de Montréal, Montreal (2007).


Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.