The Body between Form and Emptiness: Wooden Sculptures by Paul Kaptein

The practice of Paul Kaptein – an artist from Perth, Australia – utilises ideas of time, space, process and gesture to explore “the body inhabiting the fluid space between form and emptiness”. Most of Paul’s hand carved wooden pieces are in the middle of two modes of being – a stable, static appearance and some kind of mysterious state characterised by flexibility and fluctuation. Necks are elongated, faces duplicated, torsos disturbed; we see hollow hoods like the habits of monks, holes like the action of termites. The titles are intriguing – “With the Poise of One Entering a Black Hole for the Third Time”, “Every Breath, A Dying Star”.

“I started carving as a sort of reaction to computer based work that I’d be doing for the previous 6-7 years,” says Paul. “I saw it as old school, slow and without the luxury of an undo button. I taught myself as there isn’t a big carving culture in Australia. The process of making is important to me.

“Carving was a way of resisting the constant push of the digitised, accelerated culture. Everything was starting to turn into white noise. I wanted to work in a way that refused to deliver constant or instantaneous satisfaction. I was interested in the notion of arresting the flow of time in and I arrived at that through process. Through exploring contemporary concerns with an ancient process, it became a way of collapsing the distinctions of past, present and future.”


Paul at Work


Through his work, Paul likes to give expression to dualities, paradoxes and polarities. By situating his figures between opposing extremes (of presence and absence, silence and noise), he shows “indeterminacy over absolutes”.

Is there is a special meaning to the distortion? Paul explains: “It’s about time and the disruption to a sense of linear flow. Glitches are a disruption to continuity that become little spaces – portals through time. They can loop back and project forward simultaneously. I’m suggesting the body exists within these temporal paradoxes, or parallaxes, constantly unfurling across differing temporal trajectories. It follows that distortions in time become distortions in space and with that the body could be seen as a portal to the infinite.”

Paul has always been inspired by drawing and likes Cy Twombly and William Kentridge. Cornelia Parker, Rosalie Gascoigne and Carol Bove are a few sculptors he has a great reverence for. Arvo Pärt was an influence on his early sculptures and John Cages’s writings on silence and chance continue to have an impact.

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Images used with permission.


Every Breath, A Dying Star




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With the Poise of One Entering a Black Hole for the Third Time


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