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  • Writer's pictureHarri Lane

it's a f***ing kid's drawing mate

A notable and recurring motif in Paul's work is the childlike quality of a lot of his art. His oils frequently feature vibrant colours, simple blobs and a variety of disconnected facial features. On paper - the shapes he sketches are almost indistinguishable - the general composition uncoordinated and messy. This is actually a result of his usage of his non-dominant hand - a method he would employ to intentionally obfuscate his work.

"I changed my hands about three and half years ago because I was sick of what my left hand was doing. I like drawing with my right hand because it’s messy, it’s like a kid. It’s clumsy. All this clumsy work you’re seeing here, that’s why it’s clumsy. That’s the only way I’ve been able to build abstraction. I was getting too dangerously technical with this arm."

Paul Cannell

And it's true. The piece above - 'The Duck Pond' could very easily be mistaken for something sketched by a toddler after getting home from the park. And there's a certain innocence to it that makes it genuinely fascinating and appealing. In art we already take our time trying to understand the meaning of a piece - sitting and studying a childs drawing and attempting to make out what all of the strange shapes could be isn't vastly different after all.

Paul was clearly very inspired by children's drawings - likely for similar reasons. And though he employed this throughout his work - and even employed the help of children for future pieces (notably his sleeve for his own band Crawl) the ironic comparison was clearly not lost on him;

"I pick up so many kids drawings off the street at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s incredible, they’re great. I put them up here and in my house and people go ‘oh, I like this one’ and you say, ‘how much would you pay for it?’ and they’ll go, ‘I’d give you 200 quid for it’ and then you say ‘’s a fucking kid’s drawing mate’. [laughs]."

Paul Cannell

I wouldn't be too surprised to find out 'The Duck Pond' actually was something a child had drawn - from what I know about Paul I think he would have gotten a kick out of exhibiting it with the other Cannellism pieces and having people murmur quietly and attempt to find meaning. But the shapes are just a bit too unclear and I can see his handiwork in the jagged edges and strange structure.

The conversation of comparing modern and abstract art to the work of children has spanned decades - and I recommend a fantastic book on the subject called 'Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That'. But overall I think art that intentionally takes inspiration from the work of children does so for very obvious reasons - the work of children comes from an artistic perspective that most creative people would assuredly endeavor to return to - complete freedom. Freedom to explore and experiment in a free and expressive way without judgement. Who doesn't want that?



The interview portions of this post are from the fantastic interview with Paul conducted in 1992 by Marceline Smith at his Creation Records attic studio. I'll post the full digitized version of this interview soon but until then you can read Marceline's post on Diskant

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