EK Interview: Paul Kaptein


Wood is alive, and Paul Kaptein‘s work is a living testament to the human personality, warped, flawed, smooth, and beautiful. In his work he means to remove thought, to use wood to explore the space between the meaning, the quiet places, where the most of everything is. Check out his interview:

Please introduce yourself.
I’m an artist based in Perth, Western Australia, primarily working in sculpture.


What about wood appeals to you? How long have you been working with the medium? How is perception of work different when it is 3D versus 2D?
Wood has presence. It’s alive. It’s ubiquitous. Just about every culture on Earth has incorporated wood and carving into their rituals and ceremonies and livelihoods. In some small way I’m dipping my feet into that ongoing narrative.

I’ve been working with wood for 4-5 years, teaching myself carving from a few online resources. Initially I was resisting the demands for immediacy inherent within contemporary, digital culture, but I found myself referencing all of those things through the work. I took a few concepts from animation and non-linear editing that I’d been involved with, and those ideas still inform a lot of the work. I still haven’t bothered learning any 3D packages though. I kind of enjoy the process and problem solving in bringing in to 3 dimensions glitches and distortions that belong predominantly within 2 dimensional media. The obvious departure from 2D- and the condition of sculpture, is something has to make sense from a multitude of angles, not just the front. And within that lies the beauty of making and experiencing sculpture. It involves space, time, and movement. A bit of knee bending here and there.


You don’t generally see glitches in the physical world so it is kind of nice being it forth into the space and dimension we inhabit to see how these things not only appear from different viewpoints but how they shape and inhabit space.


For Everything is Nothing, what is the tiered hole in the back of the sculpture represent? Are the holes on the front constellations? Which have you chosen and what do they mean in the context of the sculpture? This isn’t the only sculpture you have with a constellations on it, what significance do they hold for you?
The excavation in the back represents an open cut mine and along with the Hi-Vis shirt reveal the subject to be a miner. The holes on the front continue a theme of using holes and gaps as constellations (themselves mostly empty space) as a way of relating the personal to the universal, while also undermining the solidity of the material. I’m interested in the Eastern idea of Emptiness and I’m asking whether these spaces and gaps can be seen as charged and active spaces rather than passive and receptive. The giant pit in the back is a rather obvious hole to represent in Western Australia as we have a long history of mining, but one I haven’t used before. This work for me, most obviously collapses distinctions between the inner and outer and was an attempt at considering the body as landscape.



There’s a degree of distortion in a number of your work, and in the endless sounds there came a pause, for example. How does this reflect your perception of the world?
I’m considering time in a mediated, disrupted way. The desire to control or overcome time is sort of inherent and for this work there are two representations of that attempt – mental and technological. Other works suggest schisms in linearity such as looping or simultaneous presents. I’m sort of looking at our relationship to the present moment and seeing it as a remix or mashup of past, present and future potentialities.


Many of the names of your work call to mind a sense of quietude, loneliness, or even melancholia. Where do you work from, emotionally? Does your work have emotional significance? When do you name a piece, before, or after? How do you think the names preface or alter what a viewer sees in the piece?
The names are often borrowed from song titles or lyrics which may have been taken in during the making of the work as a way of embedding external influence within the work, such as In the endless pauses there came a sound which is the title of a song by Jóhann Jóhannsson. I reworked the title for another piece as it seemed to fit. Sometimes the title seems important, other times it feels unnecessary. Sometimes I’d like to use the Martin Creed system – Work #127: hand carved wooden figure with wonky legs. (laughs)


My work isn’t the result of any desire to express anything emotionally. A colleague recently criticised me for not making the faces more expressive but I’m not trying to imbue them with a sense of character or personality. It’s not about suggesting an inner life but an inner space which may in turn be felt by the viewer. I try to imbue the work with a sense of quietness and or silence which extends and expands the spaces created by the holes in the work. I’m not really trying to posit a viewpoint or to challenge people to think – in fact I’m trying to get people to not think. I’m trying to disrupt the personal narrative which is bound to time – disrupt the narrative, disrupt time. Ultimately I see my work as a process of emptying. It’s that small, and grand.


What’s next for you? Do you have any shows coming up? Do you have a dream project?
I’m currently showing as part of a 2 person show with Eric van Straaten at Krause Gallery in NYC until the end January, and I’ll be part of the Krause booth at the Scope Art Fair NYC in March. There are a few other projects lined up that I’ll start work on early 2016.


Do you believe in New Years Resolutions?
I believe they exist, yeah.