Pop culture in wood sculpture
SOME people enjoy the challenge of solving a tricky crossword puzzle or baking a three-tier cake.
Paul Kaptein takes pleasure in a quirkier, more gruelling trial.
Using jelutong Malaysian hardwood, he spends several months hand carving wood sculptures.
“Each work becomes a problem that I have to try and solve, so it’s constantly engaging and I find myself asking; ‘How do I resolve that?’” the Nedlands artist explained.
“It’s rewarding, encouraging and stimulating.
“I’m really enjoying the work I’m making and whether or not anyone else gets anything out of it is – at this stage – beside the point.”
Kaptein said when he commenced sculpting with wood four years ago, he looked at the process and wondered ‘How hard could it be?’
“Then I started to do it and realised just how hard it was,” he said.
“At the beginning it was ridiculously slow because I was afraid to make a mistake but after a while I picked up speed.”
His latest work, taking two months to create and exhibiting this month at Turner Galleries, incorporates three pivotal symbols of his adolescence: KISS, Star Wars and cricket.
Kaptein describes the piece as a “museum of personal history in one figure”.
“The shoes are Gene Simmons boots with big platforms, which I have shaped to look like cricket pads, and the man is playing guitar with a cricket bat and wearing a Boba Fett (Star Wars character) helmet,” the artist said.
“It deals with ideas of reoccurring and looping time… all these pop culture moments linger. The residue of your history sort of lingers across time as well.
“Those things don’t really depart; they shape you in some ways.”
Kaptein said woodcarving was rare Down Under and deemed a leisure pursuit rather than a serious art form.
“Places like Switzerland, Japan, China and South East Asia have a traditional carving culture, so it’s much more prevalent there,” he said.
“It comes down to a cultural rootedness, which is why it’s not so prevalent in Australia.”
After his gallery exhibition, Kaptein heads to New York for a two-month residency, preparing for an exhibition in the Big Apple in December. This will be his first major show outside of Australia.
Hard turn: Paul Kaptein found wood sculpture a much more challenging practice than he had first envisaged.