It was a mighty banyan tree in Grenada, quietly resting by the shores of a Caribbean lagoon, that first sparked Paul Riley’s desire to paint. The clear line of the horizon and the undulating silhouette of the peninsula opposite his house inspired his first series of paintings. Living by the ocean, surrounded by tropical vegetation, he witnessed the richness and munificence of nature, while at the same time its inherent fragility. Most of his paintings have an element of fertility or creation in them, either as bumps, embryos, or food chains, resting on the idea that “everything relies on everything else,” as Riley likes to put it. The primary subject of his work is the very tree that ignited his artistic passion; a microcosm enshrining ecosystems of flora and fauna. Teeming with life, his trees are inhabited by a myriad of creatures and spirit animals, whose eyes peer through the foliage and trunk, curiously or at times minaciously. Riley defines his style as “Natural Constructivism” in deference to the greater building blocks of creation, the structures underlying the formation of animals and plants. In his work, he strives for perfect symmetry, as a way to reverse the chaos that is inherently present in the world. Using the limited supplies he finds on the island, he digitally elaborates his original painting back onto a canvas primed with orange gesso and then continues to modify it with acrylic and spray paint. His primary influences are Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
Riley has worn many hats in his life. After graduating from the former London’s Royal College of Art, he enjoyed a successful career as an industrial designer. Most notably, he designed and manufactured a plastic spoon for Häagen-Dazs, keyrings for fashion legend Vivienne Westwood, and had one of his drawings featured in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. After a spell as a rock musician and a property remodeler, he moved from the UK to Grenada, where he devotes himself entirely to painting.