Paul Hunter: New York City Artist


Artist Statement

Born in Paris, and raised in Quebec City where my father taught sculpture at l’École des Beaux-Arts. Both my parents were artists.

I paint luminous abstract landscapes on gold and metal leafed canvasses. Extending the centuries-old tradition of gold leafing, I adapted the technique to express my own Modernist vision - one that has luminosity as its underlying theme. 

My interest in painting on gold, copper, and aluminum leaf does not lie in the value of the precious metals, but in the unique quality of the reflected light that emanates from them. The metal leaf in fact forms only a micro-thin layer on the canvas. I paint directly onto this surface with acrylic paints and strive to create an intensely evocative radiance.

The changing light over the course of a day will dramatically alter the luminosity of these paintings. Similarly, by moving in front of the painting and shifting their viewing angle, viewers can alter the light and shadow that falls onto the landscape, thereby witnessing the passage of time through light.

In addition, both the unnatural effect of the gold leaf and the grid formed by the application of rows of individual squares of metal leaf on the canvas draw attention to the flatness of the canvas and the picture plane, as does the horizon line that is parallel to the edges of the canvas. The composition creates a contradictory situation: It includes one of the central ideas of the landscape tradition in art, to create an illusion of deep space, as well as the opposite Modernist idea that emphasizes the concept that a painting is a flat surface. The materials I work with are inherently beautiful, but the paintings are also interesting because of the interplay between seemingly opposite artistic approaches.

In addition to paintings on canvas, I have created and exhibited bronze sculptures, installations, prints and works on paper. My studio practice is characterized by experimentation with artistic techniques and materials, many of which I have used in different combinations to develop several extended series of works.


Imaginary landscapes, cityscapes, and shorelines remain central to my work. Almost all of my themes are painted from impressions and memories of New York, my travels, and paintings I have seen.

In this ongoing exploration, I often combine different types of gold and metal leaf in a single painting to exploit their distinct colors and reflective qualities. For example, a pure 23 Karat gold leaf “sky” might be paired with white gold leaf “water”.  I paint directly onto the metal or gold leaf.  Transparent pigments allow the gold to shimmer through the paint and create an effect of depth, while opaque paints create a contrast to the exceptional glow of the gold. In several works, I also paint over the metal and gold leaf with metallic pigments to create shimmering variations in tonality.

Alternatively, I can oxidize some of the metal leafed surfaces, such as those made of bronze and copper. Applying acids with my brush, I can patinate these metals and create dynamic gestural areas that contrast with the quiet sheen of the pure gold. 

Gold Leafing Technique:

The first preparatory step involves painting gold “size” that acts as an adhesive over the gessoed canvas.  This layer is allowed to semi-dry.  Then each square of metal leaf is individually applied by hand over this sticky surface in a manner comparable to laying rows of bricks.  The applied metal leafs then cure before I begin painting the actual landscape. These time-consuming techniques were perfected centuries ago and assure that the final work will not deteriorate. 

Since the 1980s, I have lived and worked in New York City, and my paintings reflect contradictory aspects of living here; Much of my work expresses the explosive energy and dynamism of this exceptionally intense and congested city, while other paintings are infused with a yearning for vast serene spaces.

Seeking to incorporate mixed media, I have also combined urban and industrial cityscapes with collaged photographs that I took myself. These grew out of an idea to revisit a very early printing project, in which I had set out to make a suite of etchings on location, depicting “One Hundred Views of the Empire State Building” in 1987.  Still riding my bike, I returned to my earlier vantage points to notice and record what had changed around this singular landmark. My camera took in a city both immutable and ever-changing, and I gradually added photographic views beyond my initial focus on this architectural monument.

To create these new works, I enlarged, gridded, and printed my photos on transparent Mylar sheets and then applied them directly onto aluminum leaf covered canvasses.

The grid of the tiled photographic prints echoes the grid of the aluminum leaf that is visible beneath and around the transparent prints. The materials reference the see-through celluloids, negatives, and techniques of early black and white photography, while the overall effect recalls the flickering images of early cinema. I overlay paints, pigments and glazes that refer to the chemical processes used to develop them, highlighting their mystery.

The use of the gridded transparent photographs continues my exploration of the contrast between the flatness of the doubly-gridded surface, and the perspectival depth of the photographic image itself.

Public Exhibitions Summary:

I am represented internationally, and have shown in solo and group exhibitions in the USA, Canada, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Gabon, India, China and Japan.  My work has been exhibited in many museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Alternative Museum, the Drawing Center, P.S. 1, the Montclair Art Museum, the Museum of Princeton University, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Indiana University Museum, the Brauweiler Abbey near Cologne, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Quebec Museum. I have received numerous awards: the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Artists Space, National Studio Program: PS 1, Institute for Art & Urban Resources, Canada Council and Quebec Arts Fellowship awards among them.

I continue to live and work in New York City.

Inquiries, visits and commissions welcome.

Paul Hunter ©

Contemporary original paintings of luminous, abstract, modern and minimal landscapes on gold leafs, metal leafs and acrylic paint on canvas

Photo: Justin Aversano