Paul Hance is a trip and a half. I had not seen him for 10 years, and then he was suddenly standing next to me, near a conveyor belt at Edinburgh airport. We talked for a moment while Paul waited for his tent and outdoor gear to arrive. On the way out, he looked into my eyes and said, “If you would really start to meditate, I think we could become great friends.”
Little did I know that just a few days later a seemingly massive pillar of my sturdily build self-image would implode. As my life lay in ruins and the dust started to settle, I went back to that moment at the airport, brushing off what had felt like arrogance, accepting it as a sign.
Indeed, I did start to meditate, and Paul Hance, this young mystic hailing from France but living the most nomadic of lifes, became for me not only a great friend, but a bit of a guru.
From Paul I learned that a spiritual practice has to be a daily one. I learned to always carry a life-saving essential oil close to my heart (preferably in a vintage perfume pendant by Tiffany’s), and I accepted I should only wear white pants (tailor made from old French linen bedsheets). In between traveling the world together, listening to Amazonian shamans, singing with Dominican monks, breaking into Claude Monet’s garden, and kneeling before the sword of St. Michel, he even found a house for me to buy and start a future ashram. Meanwhile, being a good student, I had become his teacher, too, initiating him in the ancient yogic science of Kundalini, which I’d started to follow as ardently as he would follow his own breath.
When those who we met on our travels would ask what we were doing in life, and Paul would reply, “I am an artist”, it would always make me smile. In fact, in as much time as we had started to spend together, I had never seen him work. Nor had he ever turned down an adventure by saying he had other obligations. Certainly, he did practice a lot – hours spent watching the tiniest movement of his nostril hairs, swimming in ice cold lakes – but in terms of a studio practice? I knew of no such thing. How could he, having neither a studio nor a home?
And still, here we go. Of course, his first solo show at Meyer Riegger looks like he has gone places. But it also looks as though he has done the work and brought in the harvest. Like those spiritual masters who have the ability to sit and sit while they move things through sheer mental energy, Paul Hance had this show materialize at just the right time. For fellow travellers like Paul, it’s a Houdini kind of moment: nothing to be seen here. And boom: there it is.
There are lanterns of mouthblown glass he adorns with crystals, guiding ones that do not take the name of Beacon without reason. Rather than leading Paul home – a concept that for the artist is not tied to a physical place – they lead him to where his heart is. As much as the artist is constantly out there, inwards and inwards goes his journey, reminding us of the New Age composer Pete Davison’s famous motto: Happy is the man who finds refuge in himself.
There is a French metal grill once used to protect the roots of Parisian trees, it’s intricate patterns designed by none other than Edouard Manet. In the hands of Hance, it becomes a mandala, a late masterpiece of Op Art, a portal for ascension.
And then there are the metal grids the artist has found in Kreuzberg, it’s winding tree parts telling a most humbling story of nature’s resilience. As these trees grew through the fencing and as the light falls through his opal glass-shades, Paul Hance, the artist, has come through.
Text: Cornelius Tittel on Paul Hance