Pauline Shaw

Pauline Shaw (b. 1988) is a sculpture and installation artist who lives and works in New York. Shaw’s work has been exhibited at Spurs Gallery (Beijing), The Shed (NYC), Half Gallery (NYC), Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Almine Rech (Paris), Gagosian, The Jewish Museum (NYC), and in lieu (LA). She has been artist in residence at ISCP (NYC) and France Los Angeles Residency Exchange Program.
November 17, 2021
Tell us about your practice.
I’m an artist currently living in Brooklyn NY. 
I grew up bouncing every couple years between Asia and Washington state. I went to undergrad at RISD and studied sculpture; then I got my MFA from Columbia in 2019. In between, I lived in Los Angeles. Currently, my practice utilizes wool and other fibers, making large-scale felts, but I’m interested in how to tell stories, link disparate subjects and communicate emotional states through abstraction, or non-pictorial means. 
Can you talk a little bit about your approach to research, and how this comes into the process of creating the work?
It all develops pretty organically. My favorite shows or works of mine are the ones in which it seems like everything in my life, (what I’m watching, materials I’m interested in, and emotional state) all synthesize together. For example, in my last show, the blues, I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate metal into the felted work. I was making the work in the middle of the pandemic and it was winter and the days were short. I was feeling super melancholic and blue at the same time. I was also in the middle of reading articles about the search for a vaccine and the use of horseshoe crabs (and their blue blood), listening to podcasts about the Opium wars, thinking about the anti-Asian rhetoric going on at the time, and the aesthetics of aliens. So in my head, I felt like there was this circuitous narrative of leaching, metals and the color blue throughout all these disparate subjects.
Are there any new areas of research you are currently digging into?
I was drawn to the idea of tapestry and quilt making to manifest memories in a physical object since both have historically been used to contain narratives and uphold a type of tradition. Often textiles can be passed down as heirlooms. So in a way, I was trying to capture a memory that has no physical form or proof, and create a type of heirloom from it. In the monumental piece at The Shed this summer, I cast all these fruits from sugar and sealed them into glass bags. This was another way I tried to ‘capture’ a memory, or prayer almost, the fruits, often used as offerings on an altar, will grow cloudy and crack. Eventually breaking down over a period of 10 years or so from the humidity in the air. Lately, I’ve been thinking about myths and folklore a lot more, to open up the narrative.
Can you talk about how you arrived at felt as the predominant material over more traditional tapestry fabrics/cloths?
I like that felt is a very additive process. I come from a background in sculpture and I used to do a lot of casting, fiberglass/resin work, and ceramics. I got a skin sensitivity to a lot of chemical based materials like resins and rubbers, so I work with them a lot less now. With felting, the process to make the pieces feels a lot like working with ceramics in that you work layer by layer, adding more or less material. It’s also very much dictated by a certain process with steps. With felt, you can also really form it. It can kind of be molded to anything, it can be rigid (nomadic Mongolians use it as a house-building material) or flap around like a curtain. I also like all the origin stories of it as a textile. It’s thought to be the first textile ever created. One origin story is that the shepherd Peter was the first to discover it. On his long, arduous walk to the market, his feet hurt, so he cut some wool from a sheep and put it in his sandal. By the time he arrived, the patch of wool had turned to felt from the sweat and rubbing of his foot!
What has been inspiring you lately?
I’m still pretty inspired by materials and process, both in the studio and in the outside world. I’ve been interested in the deep ocean lately, as a place that we know so little about, and as an underbelly or dark twin to space exploration.  On a fun note, I just read and watched Dune. I’m looking for my next book now.
What’s next for you?
I’m in a couple of group shows this winter, one that is currently up at Spurs gallery in Beijing through December 11th, another in Rome that opens in January, and I’ll have a couple pieces with Downs and Ross at NADA this December. A Frieze Focus presentation with In Lieu Gallery this spring and a solo show in NYC next year.

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