David Paskett PPRWS, Hon RE, Hon AWI.
“China is a constant source of fascination for me. Over my many visits, since first living on Cheung Chau Island in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1990, I felt there was an urgency in collecting so many images that seemed destined to become part of history. Looking back, I see that my paintings are, collectively, an archive of changes.”
“David Paskett is like a seer…
and only an artist with the gift of vision could undertake so monumental a task – to capture the domestic everyday essence of a nation, and that, a marvellously varied nation of immense historical and philosophical profundity, at the dawn of its emergence as a dominant modern society of the entire world. Paskett’s portrait of China at the start of the 21st century will always be cherished, I suspect, both as a work of art and as an historical document.“
– Jan Morris, 1926-2020. Acclaimed historian, author and travel writer
An intuitive geometry underpins my compositions. Edges are clearly defined and shapes ‘lock’ together.
I warm to the dark paths that shadows take in bright light – the dynamic patterns they make that lend sculptural gravity and theatrical significance to the otherwise un-noteworthy.
The complexity of my studio paintings is resolved through a considered process of balancing, ordering and giving emphasis in the way that a conductor might direct an orchestra.
The Chorus of Cacti | Chengdu | 2000 | Watercolour
This contrasts with my more spontaneous ‘plein air’ painting method, which welcomes the ‘gesture’ and ‘spirited line’. The dialogue between figuration and abstraction is at the core of my work. My more abstract painted and collaged ‘Place-scapes’ are a way of narrating and mapping out a mass of memories into one multifaceted image.
Born in London, David Paskett studied at Hornsey, Exeter, and Liverpool Colleges of Art. Living in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1990 David has regularly returned to exhibit and collect fresh material for paintings. One of Britain’s leading watercolourists, Paskett is held in equally high regard in China, which is a major source of inspiration for his paintings.
His visits to many parts of China have resulted in a collection of images that, viewed together, represent a rich visual archive of Chinese everyday life, valuable both historically and anthropologically while reflecting David’s personal sympathetic vision.
His distinctive watercolour technique is founded in oil and tempera painting, with an emphasis on drawing, being characterised by detail, clear shadows, controlled tone and rhythmic repeated patterns. His figurative Chinese themes, where the subject matter is of the essence, maybe of a poignant moment, an ironic juxtaposition, a dramatic shadow, a limpid reflection in a canal backwater or an assorted array of paraphernalia.
Since 2017 David has been collaborating with Cam Rivers Publishing and The Xu Zhimo Poetry and Arts Festival at Kings College Cambridge, as art director, speaker and writer. Visits in 2018/19, to Fuzhou, the home town of Shakespeare’s celebrated Chinese counterpart, Tang Xianzu, have generated a series of paintings illustrating the story of The Peony Pavilion, a Kunqu opera. Book due to be published in 2023.
Elected to the Royal Watercolour Society in 2001, David became Vice President in 2007 and then RWS President from 2009 until 2012. In acknowledgement of his services to Watercolour internationally, David Paskett was made an Honorary Member of the Australian Watercolour Institute in 2010. He is also an Honorary Member of the RE and an Honorary Citizen of Fabriano.
Following a long association with Fabriano’s Museo Della Carta Watercolour Biennale, in 2021, The Museo della Carta hosted an exhibition of David’s paintings to accompany his presidency of the Biennale jurors.
Since 2009, he has joined Chinese artists as a judge and participant in the Lushan International Watercolour Festival and the Shanghai Zhujiajiao International Watercolour Biennial, as well as being invited as a guest exhibitor at the Hangzhou Art Academy Watercolour Exhibition, the Hangzhou Hundred Years of Brilliance Watercolour Exhibition and Tradition and Transformation: Taiwan-Australia Exhibition.
Paskett’s prizes include those from The Sunday Times, The Hunting/Observer and the Royal Watercolour Society, as well as the 1965 Queens Award. He was an artist-in-residence at The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, 1992-1993.
In 2008, he completed a series of watercolours for the 150th anniversary of Standard Chartered Bank in China. The only stipulation in the brief was to include the corporate colours green and blue.
His paintings are in numerous public, corporate and private collections, including HRH The Queen Mother; the Hong Kong Jockey Club; Shell; Jardines; Chase Manhattan Bank; Honeywell; the Hong Kong Tourist Association and the World Bank.
See Biography for details.
Reflections in The Pond | Hong Cun | 2018 | Watercolour