b. 1954

                                     Lives and works in Adelaide, South Australia

Paul Hoban was born in Cowra, New South Wales in 1954. He completed a Diploma in Fine Art (Painting), SA School of Art, University of South Australia (1976); Master of Visual Arts, SA School of Art, University of South Australia (1993); Post Experience Program, Royal College of Art, London (2000); PhD Visual Arts candidate, SA School of Art, University of South Australia (2006). Exhibitions include CACSA Contemporary 2010: The New New, Adelaide (2010); The Green Candle, collaborative exhibition with John Barbour, SA School of Art Gallery, Adelaide (2008); Chemistry, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2000).


Collections include the University of South Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia and Artbank. Formerly Studio Specialisation, Head of Painting and Drawing, SA School of Art, University of South Australia.

“...Between ‘mind’ as autonomous, and ‘culture’ as collective. Between process, method, and product as the record of process and the evidence of method. Picture the works as a play between trance dance and open-ended, ‘high-art’ speculation. The whole project a complex of binary oppositions - non-binding - with each term unattached, perhaps even expedient. The whole a web of branching stems: tuberous, pulsing, rhizomatic, symptomatic. A cluster of energy sources brought to earth and grounded, immured now in physical matter; feeding like yeast...“

(excerpt from Index P. by John Barbour, 2001)


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WRAPTURES                                                       2015


TRANSFORMAL                                                   2012


AFTER IMAGE                                                      2010


CIRCA                                                                2007




4MAL                                                                 2003






Certain forms seem to be universal – persistent across time and cultures.  These ‘form constants’ –  lines, dots, grids, concentric forms, spirals, circles, tectiforms and  linear parallels – seem to be entoptic, that is to say, they appear to be a product of human neurological faculties.  Repetition and symmetry also appear to interest our visual perception machinery.

Curiously, the asymmetrical meander is also a form constant - recurring conspicuously in humanity’s earliest visual art.  Lattice structures, often procured from meander forms via aleatoric processes, have inhabited my work over the years. Verging on chaos, but harbouring hidden symmetries, their web-like veils can be seen in all these works, including the collaborations with Tutti artist Scott Pyle, such as Lifesaver and Pink Herring.  

By 2010, Tutti Visual Artists were emerging in a big way in Adelaide. As Tutti fans, Kirsty and I saw Scott’s work at numerous shows.  Scott’s favourite imagery was inspired by Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (PR) heroes and villains. His familiarity with the PR characters had evolved into an ability to draw them with gouache pen in seconds – like a graffiti tag. Seeing his dazzling, multi-figure compositions for the first time was a revelation.  Scott had achieved intuitively what I had sought by formal and conceptual contrivance. Collaboration is an important part of my visual art practice, so when an opportunity with Scott arose, I jumped at it. The result was the ‘Orange Wrappers’ exhibition at FELTspace Gallery in 2013. OW derives from the anagram of “Power Rangers” and is a going concern.

Scott has a wonderful feel for colour and composition.  His colour sensibility became the palette for the collaboration. I tried to engage with the background shapes so as to ensure the integrity of Scott’s own imagery. Later, layering became important.  Again lattice shapes emerged.  All the linear structures which are attributable to me in the collaborative works have been derived from the background negative spaces and colours of Scott’s paintings. 




Contradiction and Form are fundamental concerns in this work. In relation to contradiction, the paintskin as a strategy remains essential. The painting is initially constructed on a flexible plastic sheet. The image develops by accretions, overlays and superimpositions. Eventually, the film of paint is peeled off and overturned – it may then be mounted onto a canvas support. The technique reverses the traditional painting process by evading predetermined outcomes. I like to read this as metaphorical. If traditional painting is covering up, then the paintskin is an uncovering of what was concealed.

In relation to Form, my work stages a critical dialogue between the absolutism of late modernist formalism and Entoptic Geometry, or Form Constants. Rather than an ideological philosophy, I see fundamental form as universal – outside of culturally specific intentions. Entoptic shapes have a neurological source. In a nutshell, the human visual cortex likes them because they reflect its own structure and mechanics. I propose therefore that fundamental forms are potential access points in intercultural dialogue – they permeate visual art across all times and all cultures.

In these works, lattices, parallels and circles are the primary vehicles. The circles have become holes large enough for a hand to pass through - portals through the paintskin membrane. To me the holes seem to suggest another place glimpsed beyond the veneer of this world and this time. I am sure that this would be an idea familiar to the first artists decorating their own skins or conjuring beasts through cracks in cave walls. Thirty thousand years ago, prehistoric artists were using their breath to propel pigments magically onto the walls to create their imagery. This also suggests an association with street art spray painting. I find a further connection in its stylistic roots, to my own childhood memories – in comic book art of the early 1960s. Those familiar with my past work might be surprised to notice the traces and palimpsests of speech bubbles and comic strip imagery fragmented and buried like primal memories in the painted surfaces.




The sky was dense with rain clouds. To the left, my view was framed peripherally by black tree branches and to the right a wall, hard-edged in silhouette. I focused on the in-between - a pale grey void... subtle... sometimes a slight pinkish hue at others a cooler, chalky blue. The void buzzed electrically... Tiny particles flickered - off/on, dark/light, black/white. On closer examination these spots seemed to be embedded in a surrounding field of smaller, black and white linear circles. These too flickered, rotated and alternated, but at a faster pace. Occasionally, small droplets of rain fell gently on my skin... A vision of excited phosphenes throbbed and popped with each interruption.1

Phosphenes are spots in front of the eyes. Like after-images, they are also products of our visual neurobiology. Anyone can see them, use them or ignore them. They are involuntary and purely human. Like CDs they have circularity...

The After Image exhibition evolved from experimentation. Paul constructed an elaborate colour palette, derived from a large series of paintings that he loosely called colour by word (ColourXWord) which developed as a system for blending colours from colour words in various languages. The unexpected products of this were the optical sensations and after-image effects of the placement of these colours on a contrasting white ground.

As with all the works in this show, Phosphenia was constructed according to Paul’s painting template. Films of paint overlay the marks, folds and shapes of their predecessors. In a delicate removal of production from thoughtful representation, the paintskin gesture overturns the conceit of surface and consciousness. But if the process is a distancing from western perspective, the knowledges that form it – for example mathematics, philosophy, biology, physics, poetry, history – invest the painting like spells. Text and diagrammatic images are layered into the surface. Like builders’ instructions, in successful execution they fade into the background. It is not necessary for them to be revealed for the object to possess some capacity or effect that is somehow determined by them. Or perhaps instead as soup ingredients, they blend together to ensure both fluidity and consumption.

In the Psycle series, there seems to be an interplay between the very surface of the painting and a sense that something is happening behind its skin. The paintings are telescoped, dream-gazer affairs. Imagine a view of something beyond terrestrial – peering past galaxy dust into space beyond, or instead from high-above clouds into secret cities and landscapes. Orientation is trumped by ambiguity, but in a magical way. The painting works from a distance, but close inspection reveals tiny marks, stitches and scratches, dashes and arrows; beacons drawing my eye into the painting. They promise directions, instructions, reference points but seem to lead nowhere, into a surface that is both overhead and underneath. Desire here has no specific object that cannot be transformed if needed. The paintings turn out like this, an insinuation of the process.

Perphoria is so-named for its play on the idea of perforation – a surface of tears, pinpricks and scratches. A product of folding, unfolding and making holes in the paintskin; its symmetries are created and obliterated by adhesion and dislocation. White drips trace vague shapes of ancient hands. Black holes suggest the void, rivulets deny the surface its gravity and orientation. Underneath... Gargas, Chauvet, Cosquer.2 They might also trace the nervous system...

These paintings are as sleep with intense light trained upon the eye, the spots, lines and blobs dancing in the lid; linking, merging, disappearing cool and bright, a secret world of visions. In the end they are just compositions of paint, abstraction and ambiguity, yet they also mean to juxtapose sought after universalities with troubling difference, to abide the tension of never possessing the ‘truth’ of either. Everyone has the facility to access these images but we can’t know if we see them the same way.

Kirsty Hammet, March 2010

1 Paul Hoban, painting notes. Adelaide January 2008.
2 See Clottes, J. & Caurtan, J (1996): Cosquer, The Cave Beneath the Sea Abrams, NY
Clottes, J. (2003): Chauvet Cave: The Art of the Earliest Times Utah University Press, USA
Aujoulat, N (2005) Lascaux, Movement, Space and Time Abrams, NY




The oldest surviving creative artefacts are engravings of apparently non representational forms. These 'entoptic' phenomena include grids and lattices, circles, spirals, parallel lines, concentric and other geometric shapes. The recurrence of these form constants throughout human history and prehistory, and their coincidence across diverse civilisations, suggests either powerful cultural units - super memes, or a common neurological origin. In the later theory, V1 cells of the visual cortex are the culprits...they do what they like when you doze off.

The mark of the hand is everywhere in the earliest human creations, but that may also be related to our hard wired brains. Many V1 cells are biased to quite specific visual orientations, sequences and angles. In this exhibition, the splayed fingers serve not just as a vehicle for optical attention, but also for something both ancient and infantile - our common origins. The hand is also a device well suited to the recording of parallel lines... and circles.

My strategy has been to reduce the field to non-representational visual forms. The paintings proceed by chance and accretion - in reverse. Means and artefact can become pleasantly confused. Films of paint are transferred from one surface to another, layered, superimposed, or juxtaposed. Symmetry and geometry may be a result of a certain mindless, random procedure. The structures turn in on themselves, like a Poincaré conjecture.

These paintings attempt to by-pass the particular in favour of the universal. Against my will they conspire to represent nothing. I submit, and am rewarded by an unlikely morsel. Self-conscious determinism, expectation and idealisms are sacrificed to the unpredictable. In all of this there are consequences rich in metaphorical potential - transparency, elasticity, overlapping, folding and unfolding, uncovering and overturning. Margins inhabit the centres. And these painting are made of holes.


If the work wants me to be indifferent, it tolerates occasional dissent. Any distant intervention on my part is a guilty pleasure. It’s fun. That’s the recompense. And then there are the titles. A similar methodology of detachment demands to be applied to words. In progress, the paintings don’t have titles, but words and notes occur. Titles are devised on resolution. Sometimes they arrive as acronym and anagram. Some paintings prefer only one or two syllable names. More obviously titled, the 'Rounder' cd objects are multifaceted - at once artefact, by-product and template for the proliferating small 'Rounderbout' canvases. In some pieces, titles are derived from songs - submitted to slight alteration. Mere superficial association to the artwork is needed - a colour perhaps. By removal of a single letter, a song title such as 'Baby Lemonade' (by Syd Barrett) becomes 'Baby LeMonde'; 'Grey Lagoons' (by Roxy Music) changes phonetically, to 'Grail Log-Ons'; 'Skeleton Keyhole' speaks for itself – one hole fits all keys; the painting 'Punspermia' is a pun on Pan. Panspermia being the theory that Life came to this planet Earth from elsewhere, already equipped for diversity.




Fragments of thought hang like mobiles in the air – David Thomas

The paintings seem to make themselves. There is no totally anticipated result. They do what they like. I collaborate, intervene, participate from a distance, but it's not always easy. They tell me what to do, where to look and how to proceed. It's a symbiotic relationship – the work needs to be fed and I need to be surprised.

The processes can be important. The idea of the 'paintskin' process ... presented the possibility of a different kind of social field metaphor - the paradox or contradiction of painting conventions; exploring the 'other' side, transparency, layering, elasticity, margins turn into the center.. The paintings appear to be abstract (whatever that is). Literal representation is rare. I would like to think that this is an ambiguity that creates freedom for interpretation.

In the prehistoric caves of southern France, elegant representations of animals are juxtaposed with what appear to be signs... abstract, geometric, ambiguous. At Lascaux, coloured quadrilaterals of horizontal and vertical lines are juxtaposed like footnotes below the parade of beasts. Curiously, some signs seem to be iconic across completely unrelated cultures. For example, the concentric circles, hands, spirals - in indigenous Australia's oldest art, in prehistoric Ireland or South America. Anthropologists often refer to these kinds of signs as 'entoptic'... an aspect of our neurology of vision rather than something culturally acquired.

At the cave of Gargas in the French Pyrenees, hundreds of handprints ornament the walls. The hands have fingers missing. A code? A four-digit system... they all have thumbs. The purpose is lost...yet it still retains the sense of signifying meaning - Is there an older or more powerful image than the human hand?

These recent works attempt to link to an ancient painting tradition. Organic forms coexisting with abstract geometry. The search is for uniquely human visual qualities... celebrating our commonality, our pleasure and curiosity for puzzles, for pattern, structure, and symmetry. In these paintings the lost fingers of Gargas have pushed through the walls into the future.




An inveterate traveller and reader, Paul Hoban's paintings are encoded with a plethora, a complexity of cross-cultural references and multi-layered allusions. A less than exhaustive inventory might include African tribal chants, cave paintings, mathematical formulae, sacred diagrams specific to certain societies within indigenous Australian, African and Carribean cultures, urban graffiti and knot theory. Research into theoretical areas of philosophy, psychology and cultural anthropology is ongoing and in particular Hoban is drawn to African and Christian iconology and the Nigerian 'Ife' cult, which has influenced the religious and cultural life of Brazil and the Caribbean. More recently the focus has fallen on Neolithic sites in England and Ireland and cave paintings in the Dordogne and northern Spain.

Hoban's process is an intriguing one of reversal; painting onto plastic 'skins' on the studio floor - which may bear residual traces of previous paintings - the back-to-front work is then transferred onto canvas. Thus, as he claims, "the self-conscious subject, the refined, the reduced, the 'finished,' the 'autonomous' surface is overthrown." By such means, Hoban is able to frustrate anticipation, deftly obviating the possibility of an aesthetically determined outcome. Through the exposure of all that is habitually concealed, he interpolates a seductive element of the unpredictable into what is otherwise an essentially controlled and therefore self-conscious process.

The gold, violet, green and black vertical panels of CD (2003) signal a shift from the earlier symbiotic diptyches like Letter-Virus (Levi-Elvis) (1999) or Even (2000). Through a straightforward, vertical partitioning of surface, the formerly discrete panels have become incorporated into a single, autonomous work. Text in the form of fragments of poetry, incantations, litanies et al is strewn across many of the works with an obsessive intensity, that alternates with a more awkward and skewed restraint (CD (2003)).

The act of material transfer/displacement from paintskin to canvas exists as a metaphor for Hoban's most consuming preoccupation - the blend and blur, the syncretism of cultures. Tread (1999) provides a representative example; a profusion of white bracket-like markings on a dark purple, almost black ground was inspired by an African divination ritual, but as the title of the painting indicates these patternings also evoke the eccentric use of brackets by French avant-garde writer Raymond Roussel. In such works Hoban begins to move towards a visual resolution of his primary objective, which he refers to as "the reconciliation of the 'archaic' and ‘modern. "