At first glance, Paul Kaptein’s collection of hand-carved wooden sculptures might appear as though it was conceived in the deepest recesses of his unconscious mind. But in fact, his warped creations were born out of a very deliberate and conscious desire to depict an unstable realism – one that represents the dynamic relationship between form and emptiness.
We spoke to Kaptein about his inspiration, the role of symbolism in his work and the relationship with his medium.
G—Wood is a dominant medium in your work. What type of narrative do you think it creates?
PK—I think it assumes a narrative that predates the work, and commences a commentary around time and timelessness. Wood has a universal presence that speaks to everything from wooden spoons and chopping boards, to alter prices, totems and architecture – it’s like the backbone of culture in a way. It acknowledges that change is an inherent part of the work – that it may one day become something else. For now it is sculpture. Hopefully.
G—Much of your work is sculpture based. What are the advantages and limitations of sculpture?
PK—I’m interested in being in the world and therefore tend to have a very visceral response to sculpture. The physicality of sculpture mirrors our own existence through occupying the same space and condition. It emanates forth, outward into the world, and is grounded with presence –not just the material presence, but a kind of animation from within.
There are physical considerations, of course. There is always a point with carving, for example, where the work starts to push back and starts shaping you, and issuing demands of its resolution. That’s where I find myself at the moment. The sense that the work is near completion is always a false horizon.
G—I quite like the title WITH THE POISE OF ONE ENTERING A BLACK HOLE FOR THE THIRD TIME, but I’m not sure I understand it entirely. Could you talk a bit about its significance?
PK—I don’t make work that you need to ‘get’, necessarily. It’s not a riddle with a solution. I’m trying to make sense of things through my work – in a way, trying to reconcile intangibles. I’ve been looking at the body’s relationship to time and space and disruptions to these. Black holes are unknown speculative phenomena where time and space behave differently to our normal, perceptual models. So it’s a speculative work in that regard. Although a few months ago I read an article that suggested it was possible to survive a black hole, or at least one version of you could. Potentially. So there you go.
G—How do the themes you explore inform your process and, ultimately, your creations?
PK—I’m interested in the Buddhist notion of emptiness (Śūnyatā). It informs a view of existence as process – that is, all things are connected, related and without a permanent form. The use of wood incorporates these ideas, as previously mentioned. The process of carving is, for me, a process of emptying. The form falls to the floor as meticulously shaved pieces of wood, swept up and mulched or discarded, never to be seen again as an inherent form. What remains is the emptied form. An empty sculpture.
The holes point to the erosion of materiality, yet the figures rebound from the emptiness back to form because we are wired to see them as form. So there is a dynamic tension at play between form and emptiness. I’ve been working on a series of watercolours for a while based around collecting or sampling phrases, quotes, lyrics, etcetera, and then transcribing the hollow nature of the word as form within the watercolour. Again, the form is empty.
G—How accessible is your work and its message? Does accessibility hold any importance?
PK—I think the work is so accessible in a physical sense that it is mostly dismissed as craft.
G—Your work explores the immaterial versus the material. Can you talk a bit about the relationship between the two and how it relates to your work?
PK—I recall thinking about the lung as a form that was activated through something formless that is breathing. The lung sort of gave form to the breath and vice versa. There was a unique relationship where one informs the other, and how each requires the other. I’m of the view that the body is situated between these states of form and formless, material and immaterial, and moves along various iterations and tensions between. But the idea of what is not there is still what interests me.
For full feature and additional photos visit our digital issue (issue 7) here.
Kip Omolade is an American artist from Harlem, New York, with a background in graffiti art and a BFA from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. His latest series, Diovadiova Chrome, is a sequence of hyperrealistic oil paintings depicting massive chrome masks. Omolade casts these masks himself, which he then uses as a model for his paintings. The end result is a fascinating hybrid of African tradition and contemporary materials. We spoke to Omolade about Benin masks, Paris Hilton, and the meaning of chrome, “the poor man’s silver.” G—In your series, Diovadiova Chrome, you explore immortality and contemporary notions of beauty and luxury. What prompted your interest in these themes? Kip Omolade—Paris Hilton. During the early phenomenon of reality TV stars, I became fascinated with the idea of the instant celebrity in mainstream media. I wondered if art could participate in this star-making machine. So, I ironically spent ten years developing the Diovadiova using one model as a muse. I drew, painted, printed and sculpted over 100 images of a single person. By confining myself to one model, Diovadiova also allowed me to stretch my imagination as an artist. I developed different styles including the current technique used in Diovadiova
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The first image is arresting. A young girl stands before a woman. Both stare at the camera with ice blue eyes. Both wear the same shade of dress. Their skin is white and pale. Their light blue clothes almost the same shade as the wall behind them. Both subjects are in perfect focus, yet also blur together. The central feature of this stark and unsettling photograph is the hair of the two subjects. Blonde and braided into a thick rope it flows up and down from the left and right connecting the woman and the girl. But whose hair is it? The sturdy loop of hair streams over and behind both of their heads with no discernable break. It could be the young girl’s or the woman’s or half and half. Hair – such a natural part of one’s body here seems alien and unnatural. Hair is always our own, but here each person lays claim to the same hair like inseparable conjoined twins. Scrolling through Bara Prasilova’s 2014 series, Evolve, causes so many adjectives to spring to mind. Absurd. Disturbing. Playful. Precise. Stark. Frozen. Each photograph reveals hair as the common thread. “The braids are about addictions, dependence