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Paul Kaptein

Dec 01/2016
INTEREVIEW BY Alfred Brown

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.

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