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Pao Hui Kao: Dialogue Between Maker and Material

Oct 24, 2021

TLmag spoke to designer, artist, and researcher Pao Hui Kao who presented at Another Way to Draw with Spazio Nobile Gallery at BOZAR Brussels.

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Pao Hui Kao presented at Another Way to Draw with Spazio Nobile Gallery at BOZAR Brussels. The Eindhoven-based designer, researcher, and artist is greatly influenced by innovative material, traditional crafts, social issues, ecorches. By making objects, sculptures, and installations, her works emphasize creating extraordinary aesthetics out of ordinary material and surrounding through continuous material experiments. TLmag had the opportunity to sit down with her to discuss her work

TLmag: You’ve mentioned ‘’I consider myself to be a material researcher, and to be curious about all kinds of materials has become a part of my life.’’ how does this materialize in your practice?

Pao Hui Kao (P.H.K.): I am always attracted by material orientated objects. It has been one of my hobbies since I was little- observing all types of three-dimensional pieces in front of me and image myself how they are made out of. This hobby often turns my ordinary street walk into an open space gallery tour. I always make notes from what I have encountered in front of me and do a search after for getting more references behind, for instance, the background history or relevant technique. I believe this methodology of material observing has come as an aesthetic power to frame my work.

TLmag: Paper seems like quite a niche medium. Your work is part of ‘Art on Paper’, how would you describe what the medium of paper offers your practice?

P.H.K.: Paper offers me endless freedom to express thought no matter how crazy it is. As a maker who replies on physical touching to explore a new form of an object, paper is the perfect medium to shape and sculpt. I am always eager to see the result as soon as an action has been made, so a rapid and efficient response from the material is essential for me. And paper is the perfect medium that serves all my needs.

TLmag: Part of your work is ‘Urushi’, can you elaborate on what it is, and what it means to your practice?

P.H.K.: Urushi is a special natural resin which only generated by the Urushi tree up from 15-years-old. There is a limited amount of Urushi produced by a single tree every year and rapid climate change made its harvest amount less and less every year. In the past, this material only serves to Royal Family because there are very few craftsmen can handle Urushi without getting a serious allergy.

Urushi challenges makers all the time: we are not only struggling with potential allergy issues from Urushi but it also requires a specific surrounding environment for the production process, if the weather got too much rain or too warm, both would delay the production schedule. I see the Urushi application procedure as dynamic meditation on objects.

It is a dialogue between maker and material, inside world and outside space, together with flowing time that we can only involve ourselves with patience. Urushi brings a new concept about time for me. After working together with Urushi, I learned to keep more space for the material to get itself ready instead of all the way to push it into the market.

TLmag: You’ve briefly mentioned the importance of sustainability, is this something you’d say is important to you as a maker? And in what way can we see your work as connected to the cause?

P.H.K.: After working in the sustainable design industry for years, I understood how material application of production process matter to the sustainable recycling system. Each piece made in my studio, recycle system always includes an idea developing process. I criticize myself all the time for the necessity of each making step, and then removing unnecessary elements from and only applying natural base material to my work. By doing so, the viewer could finally enjoy the pure beauty of the material.

Paper is often considered a fragile material in general. However, this concept would courage collectors to give more care to the paper items and it might stay even longer than the other material-based pieces. I believe the concept of cherishing objects can balance the enormous impact of rapid consumption behavior and over waste issues.

Art on Paper was on show at BOZAR Brussels from the 15th until the 19th of September 2021.

Urushi paper pleats series.
Urushi paper pleats series.
Urushi paper pleats series.
Urushi paper pleats series.
Urushi paper pleats series.
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