Me and my friend Pau Geis sat down in early June to talk his new book Contemporary Hyloshapes and his art/design practice. Amongst other things, we cover: internal clocks, the nature of sculpture, the curatorial process, and working with metal.
PART I: PRACTICE
GEIS: I'm not a morning person. And I feel it has to do with my internal scale. We have dinner at 10pm.
ESIEN: You have long days in Spain, you finish late.
GEIS: Exactly. So it makes no sense for me to start early. Because then my timetable won’t match my body. So even though I've been in this country for years, I just stick to Mediterranean time.
ESIEN: Haha, yeah. So Pau, you're kind of pluridisciplinary. You do art direction, sculpture, graphic design. But do you have a main practice?
GEIS: Yeah, I would say I'm a graphic designer. And I work across communication and art direction. I also do sculpture. I just graduated from design for art direction. When I work in a project as an art director, I understand my practice a lot from graphic design ways of working and methodologies. Even my sculptures are quite graphic or are made of 2-D planes which then become 3-D.
ESIEN: Well, like Hyloshapes. Language becomes sculpture.
GEIS: Yeah, exactly.
Fig 1: Contemporary Hyloshapes at the Barcelona launch. Courtesy of the artist.
PART II: INTENTION
ESIEN: [Leafing through my copy of Contemporary Hyloshapes, I point to “What is Sculptural” by Isabel Pacheco] I'm intrigued by this, “What is sculptural?” What does she say? Or, what do you think is sculptural?
GEIS: I feel like sculpture is embodiment, or is about embodying meaning in a physical way. And anything can turn into sculpture in the right context, and with the right intention? And it doesn't really have anything to do with its material or aesthetic. But I think it has a lot to do with its surrounding.
ESIEN: Kind of like the Duchampian ready-made.
GEIS: Exactly. Decontextualised objects.
ESIEN: What you said about intention, I feel is important. Because I feel like a sculpture has something to do with the manmade. I don't think nature can be sculpture unless something has been done to it by a person.
GEIS: Yes. There is a lot of intention in my sculptures, they are highly designed. It's not something that I've done randomly. In this case, it was about sculpture and typeface, taking language and stretching it and challenging it and bringing it to its limits, questioning its value, trying to blur boundaries and build bridges between disciplines.
Fig 2: Sculpture by Pau Geis, Letra E. Courtesy of the artist.
PART III: CURATION
ESIEN: In part one of Contemporary Hyloshapes, I guess what you're doing is curation.
GEIS: Yeah, I am curating. And in part two, I am designing.
ESIEN: Yeah. And when you’re curating sculpture what is interesting to you?
GEIS: There are many things that can be interesting in sculpture, it could be its colour, material, its concept, shape, the author, but in this project I decided to stick to the shape. That's why when we move to the second part of the book, you'll see that I take all these sculptures and I transform them into 2-D form, I get rid of the concepts, their meaning, material and I just take the shape.
ESIEN: And they begin to look like typeface as you overlay them [*points to the second part of the book where Geis begins to play with the decontextualised shapes*]. Do you think curation itself can be an art form?
GEIS: Definitely. I'm very interested in curation. And I feel like in the second part, even though, I just said I was a designer, I really wasn't designing that much. I was just letting the shapes work. And I was just kind of supervising.
ESIEN: And I guess, when you’re curating, you're trying to build a certain energy …
GEIS: A mood.
ESIEN: A mood, an energy. A vibe, dare I say? So what brought these works together for you?
GEIS: We did a selection of 500 artworks. And in here, there are only 205. I printed all of them on a large piece of cloth. I was trying to select interesting shapes, trying not to look at the material or the colour or the author. I organised them by shape so in this section [Geis is describing Fig 3], there are more vertical shapes, then you see more columns, then here, it's more organic shapes, which are like rounder. And then there are more squared ones, cubes, and so they were distributed by their shape from the beginning.
Fig 3: Visual atlas of artworks as part of the curatorion of Contemporary Hyloshapes. Courtesy of the artist.
PART IV: MAKING HYLOSHAPES
ESIEN: You’re sculptures … they all stand up, which is, I don't know, interesting to me that they are almost like tables.
GEIS: Yeah, like little stools. Because I'm also very into industrial design. As I was telling you before, my sculptures come from a graphic design methodology, where every piece is designed and it's laser cut and it's assembled and it has no glue or no nails. You can assemble and disassemble them.
ESIEN: They are really beautiful, I love the scorching on the wood.
GEIS: I painted them before cutting them because I wanted this process to be explicit.
ESIEN: Why did you use wood?
GEIS: Working with wood is very rewarding. I feel like I know it. I know how it will react. It's not always perfect. It's warm. It fills a space. It has something human. So I feel yeah, it's the material that I enjoy working with most in that sense. But last year, we went to South America because I was commissioned by an owner of a vineyard to make a replica of the letter D, into a two metre high metal sculpture. That was quite challenging because it was my first time working with metal. And also because changing scales that much, we had to reconsider the structure of the sculpture. So my friend, Marta, who’s an architect from Madrid, jumped on board the project to help me reconsider some parts. But it came out beautifully.
ESIEN: Can I see?
ESIEN: Wow it looks so great in that vineyard. The contrast is really beautiful. It's the extreme of artifice, and then complete nature.
GEIS: Yeah, it gains another layer of meaning when it’s placed in that context, which is what we were talking about.
ESIEN: Yeah. Wow.
Fig 4: Metal sculpture of Letra D. Courtesy of the artist.