Like the cityscapes themselves, Paul Balmer’s paintings buzz with the constant, irrepressible force of life.
Paul Balmer continues his deep exploration of cityscapes while venturing into still-life and abstraction. He trains his eye on San Francisco as well as his longtime subject of New York, capturing iconic skyscrapers and their surrounding cast of supporting structures with improvisational linework, vivid and moody colors, and raw, beautiful surfaces. Nature and leisure often filter into his skylines, the water visible in the distance, full of floating-triangle sailboats: calmness and complexity interwoven.
The same words characterize his monumental, vibrant still-lifes: while the scenes are breezy and serene, their balance of pattern, color, and form is intricate and sophisticated. In fact, though Balmer’s paintings are full of action, their tone is often tranquil. His recent abstractions, created last winter in the Dominican Republic, a setting whose slower pace reminded him of his childhood in South Africa, are densely layered, inspired by clear night skies, changing seasons, and lunar cycles. Though their surfaces are “scratched, scraped, and sanded,” he notes that they refer to a “happy, simple way of life.”
Like Cézanne and Pierre Bonnard, two of his important influences, Balmer prioritizes color, light, and perspective. The style he has invented draws on influences ranging from tribal art to impressionism to expressionist masters like Kandinsky and Paul Klee, pulling an essence of feeling from each tradition. “My paintings are not meant to be an exact depiction, but rather an ‘impression’ of a place,” he has said. “I hope the viewer can get a ‘feeling’ or a visceral sense…perhaps even a subconscious connection to that scene.”
Setting out from his South African origins, Balmer studied fine art in Sydney, Australia, and has described his 1999 move to New York as a turning point. He has received praise in Vanity Fair and ARTNews, among others; exhibited at galleries and art fairs in the U.S. and internationally; and placed his work in numerous private collections.