Paul Raas uses optical tricks and photography to investigate and interpret existence

German photographer and artist Paul Raas turned his bathroom into a darkroom and is searching for ways to put his thoughts and philosophies into complex images.

Paul Raas: Mapping

The beginning of Paul Raas's artistic working life was in photography – mainly black and white. Initially he worked at home in the temporary dark room he’d created in his bathroom, and later at his live-in studio in Salzburg Nonntal. Very soon, however, the medium of photography began to feel to him too smooth, too exact and too perishable. Since that moment, Raas has been searching for new possible ways to create images and to combine them with his conceptual thoughts. The images of his later work combine the most modern technologies with ancient craft and printing techniques.

Paul Raas

From 1993, Raas studied the artistic techniques of copper printing, relief printing and silk-screen printing at the printing workshop of the Berchtoldvilla Salzburg and was soon in charge of the department of silk-screen printing. During that time he also started to become more involved in advertising, working as a graphic designer. His professional experience in this field began to overlap with his artistic experiments and he drew from both to find inspiration.

Paul Raas: Mapping

The switchover from analogue to digital photography was a major revolution in his creative journey.

"I am always torn between my fascination with high-tech development and with the handed-down, often more arduous traditional handicraft. A high-end digital camera, in other words, has the same creative-erotic radiance to me as a relief press from the 19th century. And I know how to work with them both."

Paul Raas: Mapping

After the turn of the new millennium, Raas continued to experiment with optical devices: binoculars, telescope, microscope and homemade "Art Machines". Raas always finishes his works manually: a sketched idea is followed by a photo shoot, which is in turn followed by a digital collage created on the computer after which comes an analogue realisation on a printing press or canvas.

Raas uses limited colour in his work. Sometimes pictures are visible underneath pictures.

Paul Raas: Swarms, particle

"How much time should an artist invest into the technical, craft part of his work? It is probably impossible to answer this question. Maybe I have invested too much time in this part of my artistry and that way stole a piece of freedom from myself,” says Raas. “But today I am glad to be able to build onto this foundation. When an idea is slowly crystallizing within me, it doesn't matter whether it wants to be born in the form of a relief print, a drawing, a website, a photo or software, or a mixture of all of the above. The idea just finds the best way and I can provide it with the best possible environment." 

Paul Raas: Structures of reality

Among Raas’ collections of work is “Dots”, hand painted in Indian ink and depicting time, position and expansion; and “Reality”, in which Raas is searching for reality in the void and where in the whiteness between marks “there is deep meaningless meditation”.

Paul Raas: Swarms, particle