Alex Paulus’ humorous paintings reflect failure, denial and perseverance

Rebecca Fulleylove, It's Nice That, September 8 2017

Artist Alex Paulus’ newest body of work “represents people trying to improve whatever situation they’re in, but ultimately failing”. Larger in scale than his last series, Alex combines acrylic, oil and paint marker to create a variety of textures, which also add depth to his works. “There’s something about applying paint to canvas that makes it feel like a real work of art,” Alex says. “I think it’s a connection to art history that I don’t want to let go of, although I do like to experiment with new materials and techniques.”


The Memphis-based artist says his paintings “reflect the denial of a shitty existence”. “Maybe it’s just a coping mechanism that helps people deal with shit by simply denying that their life sucks,” he says. The pieces are also about the positives of trying and failing, and learning from your mistakes. “Mistakes can lead you in new directions, so you might as well try, rather than just sit around doing nothing."


A variety of misshapen and jumbled characters inhabit Alex’s canvases, and his figures are depicted trying out VR headsets, swimming with dolphins and windsurfing on a Papa John slice of pizza. Alex’s work is surreal, yet the topical and pop culture references he includes not only add humour but also keeps them grounded in a familiar sort of reality. “I hope people get a laugh out of my paintings,” he says. “I also hope it makes them think about what their life is about and what they can do with their time on this planet.”


For Alex, titles are an important part of communicating what a work means to the audience. “I can’t stand it if a piece of art is titled ‘untitled’. It’s such a great opportunity to help explain what the work is about, especially if the artist isn’t standing right next to the piece,” say the artist. “For my work, the title is a punch line.  If you are confused about what you’re looking at, the title is going to clear that right up.”


In each piece, Alex spends a few days thinking about the concept and then comes up with as much imagery as he can to express the idea. “Sometimes I’ll pull images off the internet, other times I’ll work from photos I’ve taken, or I’ll just create an image from my memory,” he explains. When it comes to actually painting he adopts an unusual technique: “I tend to work from the foreground to the background, which is counterintuitive. But it works for me and I like the process and the results.”