Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in Brussels and I live there still. I did my art studies in a strange school named E.R.G, in Brussels. I started my studies when I was 30 (I am 41 now). So I was always the oldest guy around…
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
As a kid I presume. I have always been busy with drawing, as far back as I can remember. My first visit to the National Museum of Arts (Brussels) left me with an impressive experience, the ancient sculptures section especially. I remember how captivated I was by the way the light would hit the volumes. The fact that I have had a strong myopia since childhood certainly has something to do with that. I like to think that this disability pushed me to develop a strong haptical relation to the world.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I’ve traveled around, but I always get back to the place where I was born. Things are often messy here: getting things done takes ages, some urban decisions are totally absurd, traffic is horrible, weather quite depressing, but there is something special about Brussels that I really appreciate, and the specific sense of humor that can be found here is definitely a part of it. It is also important to mention that we have 3 official languages in the country and that its capital is a big mix of cultures.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am particularly focused on relationships between the 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional: how a volumetric object would behave in the field of a flat image, for example. I would capture (with a flat scanner) some volumes that gravitate around my practice (pieces of sculptures, parts of moulds, fragments of materials…) in order to make them “switch” to the field of 2D (sculpture and its image, and the other way around). I am also interested in the codes used by our brain use to evaluate the physical features of an object, and I do like to play around the constitution of my objects. Finally, I am more and more obsessed with the painting, even though I don’t see my self as a real painter.
What is your process like?
It always starts with a drawing: I keep filling my notebooks with thousands of sketches, forms, systems, ideas, automatic drawings. I like to think that this long succession of lines is the main link that connects everything I do. I definitely need to experiment in order to push the work further. So I would make a lot, and keep a few.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Recently, I’ve started to use “poor” materials, cardboard mainly. It is really hard for me to just use something without feeling the need to transform it. These cardboard volumes are then solidified (fiberglass and a water-based coat) in order to get some of the properties of hard or heavy material, such as metal, stone and wood. I used to build objects that were conceived with really minimal and sober tones, but lately I discovered myself a strong interest for colors. Also, I tend to feed my work with graphical influences.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
I’ve been asked by BMW to realize a monumental high-tech sculpture. The 4m carbon-made sculpture was produced in Munich, at the BMW’s prototype department. It was an interesting but really weird thing to experiment with, as I regularly make everything by myself. And also, I am definitely not a car-type of guy.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I work part-time together with my father. He is a leather-glove maker and owns an old, tiny shop that belonged to my family since 1890.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Hum… hard to tell. Influences change with time. I sometimes find myself looking to stuff that I was absolutely not interested in before, and vice versa. About the advice: I’ve been receptive to statements like “always put the work first” even though it sounds cheesy.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Again, not an easy one. We all have our way to progress. I would say something like “keep working eyes wide open,” something like that.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
It is absolutely vital to share and to be open on the work. Talks, exhibitions, books, discussions… It keeps me away from a too strongly self-influenced attitude.
What is your studio like?
It is a collective open space named “le Sceptre.” This structure involves 10 artists (more or less) from all over the world. Each of us has a personal space, but all the rest is common.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I regularly spend 4 days a week in the studio. I don’t have any specific routine. Music is sometimes around, alternative pop mainly. Other days I would switch off my playlist, as it distracts me. Depends on my mood I guess.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
It has been a place of highly social activity. I made my really good friends there, some teachers too. I did my Masters because I felt good in this environment. I started studying again after a 10 year gap, and the paper at the end never changed anything in the way I conduct my activity.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
My relationship to the art scene, I guess. I am not good in making “business connections.” I am also very suspicious about the market and the way you can be crushed by it.
How would you define “success” in art?
Keeping my practice in a kind of permanent movement is all ready a success in my eyes.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I did this residency called “comacina,” a month, completely alone on a super-tiny island in Lake Como, Italy. I totally loved it. This experience also represents a significative improvement in my practice.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
My open studio “Le Sceotre” is also a sort of artist-run-space. We regularly invite projects to take place within/on our walls.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on cardboard forms that I turn into sculptures or painting-objects. I use fiberglass in order to make them durable. It allows me to develop another “speed” in my practice as I’ve always been busy with really slow process.
Find more on Instagram @pauwelseb!