Humor and seductive aesthetics are used as a strategy to capture the visitor’s attention in the lacy collages of the series Insects of Surinam. Historic botanical illustrations documenting the flora and the metamorphosis of insects by Baroque-Era naturalist and scientific illustrator Maria S. Merian, are coupled with the artist’ contemporary representations of muscular bodies. This new visualization of the body is created using cutouts from fashion magazines illustrating bodybuilders’ bodies meshed together with colorful consumer products.
This series explores the artist quest to understand the time spent by people on their bodies to attain perfection rather than address urgent existential issues. The synthesis of the remodeled bodies coupled with the botanical images embodies a metamorphosis. This transformation highlights the illusion of the improved body rather than demonstrating growth. Paul creates a new visualization of the body to draw parallels between creating genetically engineered plants and organisms to improve crops, and the preoccupation with body building employing hormones, drugs, plastic surgeries, and reproductive technologies, to create genetic alterations of the humankind. By visualizing these extremes in the form of a botanical mandala with a perceived protective canopy, Paul comments on consumerist culture while inspiring viewers to reflect on their relationship with nature.
Conceptually, the series Insects of Surinam were inspired by the essay A Cyborg Manifesto (1985) by American scholar Donna Haraway. The series exemplifies the blurring of the line between human, animal, and technology. Paul creates these imaginary worlds by playing with this possibility of engineering life while making hybrid figures of cyborgs, airplanes, and watches. The artist boldly depicts a future where the genetic code of living organisms is altered, and a strange new hierarchy among sentient beings emerges. The series is an urgent reminder for humanity that time is running out and serves as a call to change our ways.
In the video animation series Insects of Surinam in Vitro miniature superheroes are being created. What started as an aesthetic and conceptual association develops into a body of work addressing the overuse of resources, referenced in the large prints, where the plant is becoming a tree invaded by men, who are still holding positions of power.
1. Maria Sibylla Merian was a German-born naturalist and scientific illustrator who made significant contributions to the field of entomology. She is best known for her studies of insect metamorphosis and the illustration of its various stages. Merian was one of the first people to observe and document the entire life cycle of an insect, and her work remains an important resource in the field of entomology (The study of insects). Merian is also credited with being one of the first female scientists, and she was a major influence on the development of modern scientific illustration.
2. J. Goodman review of Silent Spring exhibition at Miyako Yoshinaga gallery, 2020
In union, Gallery I and II, constitute an archive representing a sample of the large number of North American vulnerable species experiencing alarming migrations. Separating the two galleries is a sound installation, serving as a monument to an unknown bird, echoing the sounds of what may soon be lost.
There are over 90 species of birds at risk in Canada and over 90 also in the U. S. The series includes birds common to both countries and specifically the East Coast. Each image represents a collage of bird species suffering from a loss of habitat due to the accelerated production of grains to feed cattle, hence the introduction of images of corn, raw and cooked meat intertwined.
The scope of the disappearance of biodiversity is magnified as one walks between the galleries. A strong sense of humanization of the creatures is evident in the space and can be attributed to the artist’s hope to cultivate empathy through the artwork. Paul herself had experienced increased empathy after initial drawings of other endangered species.
The technique includes drawing and collage of a bird species at risk assembled digitally and printed with archival pigment on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. The print is laser-cut and inserted between two laser-cut acrylic sheets.
“Being everywhere at home on the living territories that are the basis of our subsistence and where each living thing inhabits the woven web of other living things”.
-Baptiste Morizot, On the Animal Trail
“Migration, the explosion of inequality and the New Climate Regime all represent the same threat. Most of our fellow citizens underestimate or deny what is happening to the earth but understand perfectly well that the question of migrants imperils their dreams of a secure identity”.
—Bruno Latour, Où atterir? Comment s’orienter en politique