I first started to pay attention to Paolo Arao’s work when I happened upon his “52 weeks” project, which he describes in this great interview, as well as the direction his work has taken following that series! More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in the Philippines and moved to the US when I was two years old. My father was in the US Navy so I grew up in Hawaii, Florida and Virginia. I received my BFA in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. I live and work in Brooklyn, NY.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
In high school I attended the Governor’s Magnet School for the Arts in Virginia and was exposed to music, visual arts, dance and theatre. I had played the piano for most of my life and went to college to study Music Performance and Composition at Virginia Commonwealth University. I aspired to be a classical pianist and composer, but after the first semester of my freshman year, I became more interested and curious about visual art and painting.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am experimenting with ways in which to explore the elastic and open-ended concept of queerness through painting, collage, and textile constructions. I utilize geometric abstraction as an alternative for exploring queerness without the depiction of a body or bodies. I’m also curious about intention and imprecision – about some times doing things the “wrong way” to discover something unexpected yet deeply personal.
What is your process like?
I’m a creature of habit and I like to set self-imposed restrictions. These restrictions include scale, duration, frequency, and materials. I find freedom in these restraints. In the past few years I have worked on yearlong durational projects. In 2016, I completed a project called “Yearbook.” I painted one 12 x 9 inch painting every day for the entire year, each completed in the span of one hour. I ended up with 366 paintings (it was a leap year.) In 2017 I completed a related project called “52 Weeks.” I painted one 18 x 15 inch painting for each week of the year. Each painting was completed in one session – a session would last anywhere from 2 to 10 hours. I would say that time, duration, and repetition are ideas that I’m also very interested in. My process has opened up a bit and I’m paying more attention to my materials and arriving at forms that are more organic and less rigid.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Elizabeth King, an amazing artist and professor at VCU, gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I embrace to this day. “Make more, think less.” It’s Newton’s Third Law – for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. I believe that the more you make, the clearer things become. You gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. But you have to put in the work! Often times I don’t know exactly what I’m making until I’ve made it. The thinking often comes during and after the making.
What is your studio like?
My studio is in a huge industrial building in Bed Stuy. The studio itself is small, as I’ve been making intimately scaled work. And It’s a convenient twenty-minute walk from my apartment in Clinton Hill.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
A challenging thing about making art is tuning out my inner fears and doubts. Confronting them is a motivating factor that keeps me coming back to the studio.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Geometric, Imperfect, Playful
What are you working on right now?
I’m working with collaged fabric pieces on paper, sewn fabric paintings, and pieced textile constructions.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for doing what you at Young Space! You rock!!