Paulo Araújo describes himself as an “Intuitive Abstract Artist”
Paulo Araújo describes himself as an “Intuitive Abstract Artist”

Therapeutic abstraction

For the first of what I intend to be a series of articles that looks at some of the artists I am working alongside, my ambition is to go a little deeper than a personal profile and to explore the artists’ mindset, some of the techniques used and what inspires them to produce works of art.

I am kicking off with my friend Paulo Araújo, who describes himself as an “Intuitive Abstract Artist”.

The answer to my opening question of why he chose abstraction to express himself exposed a great deal about his work.

In his own words: “Abstraction literally means the distancing of an idea from an objective reference in a nonrepresentational manner. For me, it all starts with the colour palette, purely intuitive and instinctively seeking a release of endorphins through visual stimulation as a therapeutic aid in pain management. Eventually, a shape or form or even a hint of an idea arises, and I allow myself to follow my intuition. My pain levels always dictate the mood, colour and work progress.”

The first element of this statement that needs clarifying is the reference to pain management. The creation of his artwork stems from a place of chronic pain in search for comfort.

Regrettably, Paulo was forced to abandon his career following a work-related accident. He has undergone two lower-back surgeries, the most recent of which was a lower-back fusion. He has lived with chronic pain for the last 10 years. As suggested by his Neuropsychologist Dr Miguel Coutinho, art was incorporated into his recovery as a stimulant and relaxation tool.

For the artist, abstraction is a therapeutic aid in pain management

To quote Paulo again, “chronic pain leads to depression and anxiety, and my work depicts a constant struggle or battle to staying safe and psychologically stable”.

The other element to pick up on is the use of strong vibrant colours that are a feature of everything he paints, and Paulo comments on how they bring a comfort that sets the mood for pain relief.

So, for him, this is well described as therapeutic abstraction and, for the viewer, he seeks to inspire curiosity and stimulate imagination.

Although all this sounds a little metaphysical and deep, it is what lies at the heart of all great abstraction painting, and Paulo has been inspired by most of the great ones like Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Joan Mitchell and, more recently, Epping Lawlor.

To draw from my own experience, I have worked alongside Paulo arranging our own collective exhibitions with ARTLINK and I have listened to the comments from many people who have looked at his work.

Admittedly, for some of them, the philosophy of abstract expressionism goes way over their head, while others give a more qualified judgment; but the common reaction is that everyone sees something different.

Maybe something objective is discovered in the nonrepresentational nature of the artwork, or maybe an instinctive reaction is triggered. Whether the viewer likes the artwork or not, it is clear that our brains respond in a less restrictive and stereotypical manner, exploring new associations and activating alternative paths for our emotions.

The final observation that I would like to conclude with comes from the Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky, who had a seminal influence on abstract expressionism, who once said that “abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes”.

Samples of Paulo’s work and information about the exhibitions where his work can be seen are available on

By Bob Tidy
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Bob Tidy is a photographer and computer generated digital artist