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An Interview With Zoe Paul

Sculptor, London

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

pythia futuremap copy

In June 2009 Zoe Paul graduated from Camberwell BA Sculpture. Whilst at college Zoe participated in numerous shows around London from the group exhibition Factory at the James Taylor Gallery organised by Royal College MA Curation graduate Dean Kissick to ‘Between the Eyes’ at Coleman Road. Zoe Paul has recently been selected to participate in ‘Future Map 09’. Amelia’s Magazine spoke to Zoe Paul about her creative processes and the development of a sculpture from idea to creation.

What is it in particular about sculpture that interests you?

I am interested in the form and mass that is sculpture. I like the way we as humans relate ourselves to objects through their three dimensionalism. We are given the option to walk around and view the object from multiple angles and vantage points, creating our own image from that object. We judge the object as being larger or smaller than human scale and this plays a large role in our perception of the object.


You have made numerous paintings, have interests crossed over from painting into sculpture?

I feel happier thinking in three dimensions and I have always felt more successful in making objects but I highly appreciate painting and drawing. It’s a very different way of thinking. I’ve done a fair amount of life drawing and painting; which I think has helped me to appreciate form.

I strongly believe in drawing, if not as a final out come, then as a practice to learn to see. I think as a sculptor it is important to learn to look at things and see how they work formally in order for you to understand them. I always think I can see things better after I draw from life because it forces me to look and not just glance. The art school in Athens I went to for a year before my degree in London provided amazing classical training. I definitely think it gave me a different perspective.

I am a bit shy to make paintings now because I feel like I expose too much of myself, but with sculptures I rely on the materials and the mass of the objects to defend themselves.

amazon boob

How do your sculptures develop through the design process?

For myself the making process is a vital part of how I develop an idea. I make a lot, a lot of which, doesn’t always work but I find the action useful. I try not to think of anything as a definitive piece, the process is important.

My work is frequently based around materials. By using impoverished materials I devalue the monumentalism classical sculpture holds. Making ‘Pythia’ was an incredibly labour intensive process. I relate the carving of the polystyrene armature and the precise measuring and cutting of each individual tile to the carving of ancient marbles. It was industrial and ordered. I made the sculptures imagining I was making an architectural fitting, similar to what classical sculptures were in their day. I also spent time in the British Museum taking photographs and working on these as drawings and sketches.

Do you start with an idea or a medium or are both equally important in your work. If this is a bit vague, I mean does the medium start the idea or does the idea influence the medium used?

I think the two go together, although I pay more attention to materials than I realize. I thought up ‘Sunset Island’ whilst in LA, I wanted to represent the crummy, grimy glamour of Hollywood with the cocktail sticks and the industrial fiberglass sphere. Materials make me think of ideas, my degree show work on temporal exoticism and classical Hellenistic sculpture developed from working with tiles, trawling the isles of hardware stores, and finding cheap marble effect ceramic tiles. This cheap marble effect alludes to the wealth represented by classical marbles.


Do you prefer to work entirely on your own as you are creating a sculpture?

I need to think and write by myself, but its really boring working alone. Now I’ve finished college, my studio is really small, crammed and damp. I miss being able to find someone to get a coffee with, when I want a break.

Sculpture is a social process, I didn’t really paint at college because of the open studios and I need to be alone to paint, its much more personal. Sculpture, however, requires banter. Conversely I pretty much had to make my degree show piece, ‘Pythia’ entirely on my own. The tile cutter makes such an awful noise I was as good as exiled out the studios at college.

Rock and tuft

Who or what are your artistic inspirations

My biggest inspiration was going to Los Angeles last year when I interned as a studio assistant for Mindy Shapero. College was OK but working for Mindy made me really hungry to make and to be an artist. There was so much energy and exuberance in the approach to life. I realized that I could do it if I wanted it badly enough.

I met amazing artists out there, like Thomas Houseago. He was so inspirational and had so much energy.

I can’t help being inspired by greats such as Picasso and Brancusi. Recently I have been reading about Rodin’s love for Greek sculpture as it conveyed the ‘ravages of the time’ in its ‘fragmentary aspect’. Rodin was a pioneer of the existential being conveyed through representation of human form, which he showed through his tactile figures.

My interest in classical Hellenistic sculpture lies in the history attached to it, ‘the ravages of time’, and the wars fought around it. Also the way sculptors repeatedly revert back to it as true sculpture.

I love museums, especially the old musty sort. They contain an exoticism: a longing for a bygone age. I am interested in fragmentary discovery and understanding history, therefore museums are exciting transient spaces full of mystery and discovery.

ahrodite study double

Do the paper drawings feed the physical process of making a sculpture?

The drawings are really beautiful. I started making them as plans for sculptures to understand the anatomy and form of classical sculptures. Really, they are just spruced up working plans, but I think that’s what’s attractive about them. I tried making sculptures directly from them but it was a complete failure so in a sense they are failures at working drawings. Again they were important for my process, especially as I was making work about existing work, it was important for me to understand existing sculptures.

I tried to convey the museum feel in them. Displaying the images like old school posters or crumbling educational departments in museums. As museums attempt to explain history, the classical sculptures I was looking at. They are objects, which represent an exotic bygone age, but essentially are just glorified rocks

The Amazons1

What’s next for Zoe Paul?

I’m excited to have been selected for ‘Future Map 09’, a selection of a handful of graduating students from across the University of the Arts London, of both graduates and post graduates.

In terms of work I’m excited to continue my idea of temporal exoticism and the allure objects hold. I’ve been reading an amazing book about a shipwreck containing sculptures on their way to Rome during the Roman occupation of Greece around 70BC, discovered off a Greek island in 1900. The book delivers amazing descriptions of the sculptures being gnarled and eaten by the sea. I like the idea of these vast powerful sculptures rotting at the bottom with such history attached to them.

I would like to make more tactile works that show my process. I love the way Rebecca Warren’s figures do that.

Future Map 09 will be hosted by 20 Hoxton Square Projects and will run from the 25th November 2009.


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One Response to “An Interview With Zoe Paul”

  1. paul says:

    Nice article Zoe- sounds like you know your stuff.
    Well done for graduating and good luck with your next eneavour.

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