Contemporary Art in Cranbrook and the Weald

Paul Houlton

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"...a phase I'm going through..."

an exhibition of photographic work at Merriecroft,

The Common, Sissinghurst, Kent TN17 2AE

Thursday 2nd June to Saturday 18th June 2011

Visitors welcome without appointment: Tuesday -

Friday 2.30pm - 5.30pm and Saturday 10.30am -


Viewing available at other times by appointment -

ring Kristina on 07798 601427.

Of the exhibition Paul says..  "My interest in the effect of

repeated images started when I was still shooting black

and white film and making my own prints in a traditional

wet darkroom. Typically, I would produce many prints in

my quest for the perfect print and often, it was the

scattering and juxtaposition of the rejects that often

interested me more than the ‘perfect’ print itself.

I started to assemble these rejects into compound

pictures, cropping the components in different places to

achieve a sense of movement and change within the

picture area. These assembled images had an additional

interest in that they had an abstract ‘feel’ yet paradoxically

comprised only figurative components.

Putting together the exhibition ...a phase I’m going through... has been a really interesting experience. As a result of the process of putting the

images together, more ideas have come to me that I want to explore. Particularly thought provoking was the Tyne Cot image where

photographing, then rearranging, words of the memorial to the thousands of soldiers who died there in the First World War, threw up different

meanings and emphasis. To me, some of the epitaphs and valedictory phrases have been used and seen so often that they have lost some of

their currency. By rearranging the words, I hoped to restore some of their power and poignancy as well as introducing new meanings.

When I made the move to digital photography the process became much more flexible and opened up more possibilities. Using the publishing

software I use in my work as a graphic designer, it was a simple matter to create a grid and import images which could be sized and moved within

the picture frame. This meant that different configurations of the subject could be investigated and refined. It was also possible to remove

unwanted or distracting areas from within the picture frame and crop into the chosen subject.

The process also enabled me to take a fresh look at traditional and perhaps over-worked subjects such as half timbered houses and even

landscapes. Too often the inherent sentimentality in these subjects acts against a lucid examination of their aesthetic appeal. By concentrating on

their detail and using repetition to draw attention to particular aspects of their appeal I am trying to uncover a different, unsentimental beauty.

There was another unexpected and rewarding outcome of this process. I had found that subjects that interested me such as the textures found in

old wood and brickwork, rusting metal and machinery did not necessarily make an interesting single image. However, when repeated and

incorporated into an assembled image, the essence of the subject that appealed to me and prompted me to take the picture assumed a greater

intensity.There are parallels to this approach in music. The composer Steve Reich has used a technique where very simple musical phrases are

repeated and overlaid slightly out of phase with each other, producing a fascinating soundscape with a complexity and appeal far beyond its

original individual components.

Reich called some of his works Phases and this is the name I have borrowed for my collection. Visually, the phasing comprises shifting the

repeated picture subject within the picture frames, with the aim of producing a similar appealing complexity. In this way I hope to share with the

viewer my interest in the subject and what it was that made me take the picture in the first place.

Degas said “drawing is not what you see; but what you must make others see”. Now I wouldn’t dream of trying to make you do anything; but I

hope I can share both my interest in the beauty of the unexpected and my pleasure in this phase I’m going through."


Born in Croydon, Surrey, Paul Houlton was educated at Selhurst Grammar School. His influential art teacher was Geoffrey Dickinson, the

cartoonist who later became the art editor of Punch magazine.

Paul has always been passionate about music, in the 1960’s he was playing saxophone and recording with bands produced by Rolling Stone,

Bill Wyman. More recently he performed as compere and improviser with the avant-garde musical cabaret group The Electro-Acoustic Cabaret in

major venues across Europe.

Paul started his own design and communications company, The Grand Design in 1978 working for a wide range of charitable and commercial

clients. He has won many major national and international design awards.