Paul Nentjes (Paul Phoenix), 26, celebrates temporariness by crafting empowering sculptures. And by just doing.
Name: Paul Nentjes
Doer/thinker: “I would say that I do both quite a lot but I am more of a do-er. When I don’t have an idea, I just start to fidget and fumble and from that the ideas will follow. Doing starts the thinking process.”
Party personality: Fan Queen. Paul always likes to bring out a big fan to cool himself and everybody around him off.
Favorite party outfit: "I have this template that I have been going about for years actually. It’s like; black shorts with black shoes and then a colorful shirt combined with socks in the same color."
Can you tell us what you do?
"I make sculptures. I am always looking for some kind of seemingly contrasting subject matter. What’s really binding my work together is that there’s often two binaries that I try to combine. The grotesque and the elegant, dead and vitally alive, ancient and futuristic, those are examples of some topics I really like to mix. A lot of my sculptures are also based on dancemoves and moments in the club. They are more like crystalized captured moments that I materialize with my work. Therefore I always use materials with a history of usage. For example closting materials like rails. I often use them as a contrast with the subject I’m dealing with. But, it’s like a puzzle; sometimes all the pieces fit and sometimes I’m puzzled with what it means. The quality of those materials is actually so poor that I don’t need to use any heat or other machines to be able to work with it. That creates a sense of independence for me. I can build really big sculptures without having to weld anything. I feel like I’m really building my own craft as an independent person. It feels really empowering."
Portrait: Thanh Nguyen - Paul is wearing one of his pieces “Wearable (2020)”
“Spoons (detail - 2019)”
Art pieces photos: Jonathan Tams and Lucas Atteveld
What do you want to convey with your work?
"This is a very hard question but I think it all comes down to empowerment. I think the thing with art is that the message is something you wouldn’t want to say out loud. That’s because the message can become very sentimental, dark or just awkward. I think we use art so that we don’t have to say it out loud. The reason I like to work with death as a subject is because of my childhood. I grew up in a reformed family and I was really appalled by the idea that I would go to the afterlife after dying. I really didn’t want to live forever because I realized how long that is. When I lost my faith, I kind of won my temporary life. It felt liberating. That’s why my work also celebrates that temporariness."
What do you think needs to change in the creative industry?
"There are so many different creative systems in the industry. So, it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing for me. But the current way it’s set up is that it’s a lot about image. The things that become successful aren’t necessarily the things with the most quality. A lot of work is about marketing and how much content you can create. With the Tiktok generation there’s some kind of change happening though, where your content is really about the production. That’s also a really interesting change. But who knows what that will turn into, what kind of monster they will create with their new system. My generation is more Instagram focused, they constantly want to post with a lot of hastiness. I try to post the things that I think are worth it and are real."
What are your future goals as an artist?
"Well, I would like to show a lot of work. If it happens that I work with people that are in fashion, theater or jewelry then that’s great. But I don’t have one specific path that I want to take. The biggest goal for me is to make things that are seen."
‘’ I really didn’t want to live forever because I realized how long that is’’