"Fascinated by photography’s overlooked potential to create dizzying optical illusions, Paul Bogaers transforms flat images and found objects into new sculptural forms."
Unseen Platform: How would you define your artistic practice?
Paul Bogaers: I was educated in a range of disciplines, and to a large extent I think this remains recognisable in my work. I’ve always considered a photo as a half-product; I feel the need to do something with it; to draw or paint on it, or to turn it around or upside down. Roughly six years ago I took a decisive step into the three-dimensional domain. It felt like a release. I seemed to have entered an entirely new territory I’d hardly explored before, and one which completely fed my needs.
Could you tell us a little more about your project, The Forest?
This series originates from a collection I started many years ago when I found an old snapshot depicting three women posing in a tree. It was a curious photo, but what triggered me, in particular, was the way these women were sitting as if it were perfectly normal to linger in a tree like that. Later, I stumbled upon more photos of people posing in trees, and I tried to exaggerate certain aspects of these already absurd scenes. I decided, for example, to elongate the tree trunks the people were sitting in, enabling me to raise the scene quite literally above viewers’ heads.
I also tried to playfully mitigate the sharp edges of the photographs by extending them with non-photographic materials. The grainy, impressionist tones of the amateur images merge surprisingly well with the crude, hand-made world of paper-mâché, coffee stains and ink splashes. The occasional attachment of real branches to the photographed scenes adds another strange illusionist twist to the work.
What does a typical day look like in your studio?
I’m a collector, so I like to surround myself with things that inspire me. It’s an essential part of my working process, which requires a large reservoir of materials upon which I can draw while working. My sources are everywhere, but never far away. I pick up abandoned objects from the street, whilst a trip to the woods never fails to provide me with branches, animal skulls or other natural materials. When I create, I try to play rather than to think. I need to have my studio brimming with what I call ‘possibilities’.