Paul Brigham was born and raised in rural New England. At age four he began art classes at the local museum, and drew throughout his childhood, mostly birds and people.
Paul dutifully entered the University of Massachusetts in 1977 but was not an inspired student. One life-changing day in a western literature class, he saw pictures of the West. Brigham fell in love with the colors and open spaces. He left school to embark on a westward journey that led him eventually to Yosemite. Brigham worked in the park there for several years before moving north to his current home in the Bay Area. He continues to be inspired by the vast and diverse beauty of the West.
Brigham grew up in a home filled with traditional Asian paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes, and an interest in Asian arts and eastern philosophy developed early in life. His father was artistic and he designed a Japanese garden that Paul would help maintain.
Brigham's paintings today reflect this Eastern influence as he paints realistic birds, bees, bears and flowers against abstracted backgrounds. Silk-screened images, mark-making and color-fields are combined to evoke the ever-changing aspect of Nature and the physical and spiritual dimensions of landscape.
Brigham’s technique consists of layering paint and silk-screened images and then subtracting to reveal elements from previous layers. This technique not only contributes to the depth and texture of the surface, but also captures the effect of the transitory nature underlying all things. Says the artist, “I strive to balance the expressive and venturous quality of Abstract Expressionism with the calming serenity of traditional Asian paintings.”
Although Brigham has received formal training in the arts, he considers himself to be primarily self-taught, preferring the learning derived from direct observation and experience of the natural world. He has exhibited throughout the US, and his work is in private and public collections worldwide including those of Joie de Vivre Hotels and Real Food Company.
Paul Brigham has spent a number of years reading Zen philosophy, practicing Tai Chi, and studying Asian art and aesthetics. He downplays his formal artistic training and cites as more influential the education received from his firsthand experience of nature. His recent paintings are inspired by the tradition of ukiyo-e, "the floating world," specifically Japanese bird and flower prints. The challenge for Brigham has been to apply aspects of these traditions to his work in a way that respects but does not imitate them, and in a way that reflects his own experiences as a 21st Century painter living in California. To Brigham, the idea of the floating world describes the ephemeral and impermanent quality of our worldly existence.
Brigham's technique consists of layering paint and silk-screened images and then using sandpaper to reveal elements from previous layers. This layering technique not only contributes to the depth and texture but also captures the effect of the transitory nature underlying everything and making them appear in a state of flux. The background Brigham has created reflects how the bird might see the world - it is serene and magical and the bird seems at home there.
One learns a landscape finally not knowing the name or identity of everything in it, but by perceiving the relationships in it - like that between the sparrow and the twig.
- Barry Lopez, Crossing Open Ground