The Pink Bear by LUAP has become immediately identifiable. A bright pink focal point amongst the landscapes on which he is photographed. The artist, also known as Paul Robinson, has been travelling around the globe for years. Hiking miles and often going into remote locations. This is where the Pink Bear takes him.
Photography is a just one of a number of key elements of the pink bears creation process. The shoots are often extreme but then certain images will be taken and transposed onto canvas. Re-imagined in a kind of abstract realism. Often painted huge the paintings can take months to develop. Each one layered with symbolism and memory. The Pink Bear is still at the centre of it all but as a process there is so much more.
It was CBT which revealed the bear to the world. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which LUAP went through just over 10 years ago now. The Pink Bear revealed itself as a memory. A powerful image to hold onto. It became a symbol. A means of positive re-enforcement. It was from this moment that the bear would feature strongly in his work.
Linked to the therapy Paul was undertaking at the time, the bear took on meaning. “It wasn’t hiding in a corner and running away from things” he tells me. “It was really about just standing out and being strong. They were all qualities I wanted to draw on in order to improve myself. It was all about self improvement”.
Evolution of the Pink Bear
LUAP’s own personal journey has been entwined with the development of the pink bear in his art. Initially creating images of the bear in a more solitary environment. These began to evolve as the artist himself began to grow and to gain confidence within himself. Eventually models and other people were introduced interacting with the bear. The imagery became more centered around the contact between people than just the environment.
“The bear was kind of seeking friendship but he was lost” LUAP explains of those early years. “Then as I grew and became more confident, it was like the bear was almost mirroring my personality. It was like an alter ego. As I started to hang out with more people it made sense for the bear to do so as well”.
Painting the Bear
Although LUAP’s Pink Bear starts in the lens of a camera. It’s journey will often take him onto canvas or even the street. Images created during a shoot might well find themselves painted onto canvas. Often huge, these works themselves are steeped in personal histories. To look at elements of them. They could be photographs. Such is the fine level of detail. Around though there are layers of abstraction. “I guess it’s how the world might seem sometimes to me” says Paul. “I feel real, the people around me feel real. But sometimes the world can seem like a strange place.”
Video Interview with LUAP
Perhaps the most revealing element of these paintings can be the background. Generated over a period of several months. This is before the detail of the surface image is even added. Different thin layers of paint or materials such as glitter, resin or stencil can be built upon all over a period of time. “Everything is considered” he tells me. As each layer is added the background itself begins to build up its own personal history. Nothing in LUAP’s painting practice is left to chance.
The process of starting a painting is one which also draws on old memories. In much the same way as the bear is a positive association from childhood. One such memory hangs even now on the wall of his home in East London. It’s a section of his mum’s old wallpaper. Fondly remembered from a time growing up in Grimsby. It was wallpaper she had for 25 years. Each year a new colour would be painted on top. Layers would slowly be built only to be scraped off in pieces by Paul and his brother. The young boys, eagerly trying to discover the colours of the past.
The pink bear has been to places most people could only ever imagine. Shoots around the world have developed and enhanced it’s own unique personality. For Paul Robinson, the artist behind LUAP and the Pink Bear, it’s also been transformative. “Ten years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this interview” he tells me. Yet now here we are laughing and talking. The bear stands behind in the distance watching on. Waiting patiently for the next adventure.
LUAP was interviewed over zoom on 25 May 2020 as part of the Inspiring City ‘Art Online‘ series