Paul Yore is a queer Australian artist primarily working with textiles, fabrics and found objects which he uses to create tapestries, sculptures and large scale interactions. All of which are vibrant, playful, intricate, confronting, political, beautiful and expertly crafted.
His work is akin to a hyped up unicorn, who runs rampant throughout the world. Gobbling up pop cultural debris, along with humanities’ deepest fears, desires and issues; all of which are vomited up, in a glorious, visual feast!
Wanting to get to know him better, we sent Paul some questions to answer over email.
Explore his poptastic world below…
Name + D.O.B?
Paul Yore, born 2nd December 1987.
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Living and working on unceded Gunaikurnai land.
City, State and Country you’re from?
Born in Naarm, “Australia”.
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion… Anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Your childhood:
I was raised in a Catholic household, so I remember being dragged around to many church-related events, singing and dancing and praising God and such. However, unlike many catholic households, my father was actually a Catholic priest at one time, a Franciscan friar to be exact. Before meeting my mother and leaving the church, he was a missionary in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
So, religion played a big part in my upbringing and our household more generally.
I was always a rebel as a child doing things others saw as strange, in primary school I used to wear a dress, I collected stamps, coins and gemstones, and was obsessed with Egyptology. Also, it was the 90’s, so there was lots of interesting music, and mobile phones and computers were not yet ubiquitous household objects, so my siblings and I spent most of our time outside having “gumnut wars” with other kids in the street.
* Your tweens:
My idyllic childhood came to an end in 2000 when I was sent to a private Catholic all-boys school, which was, needless to say, a living hell. I was bullied badly, called a faggot (even though I was still in the closet), and I was physically assaulted.
In 2001, when I was 13, I first realized I was gay. I kept this to myself, as I was already very unpopular at school. And then 9/11 happened, which was the first time I experienced the horror and uncertainty of the world.
This event, coupled with my personal torments led me to view the world as a hostile and troubled place. I felt everything I had been taught about the world was a lie. I felt incredibly vulnerable, and I began to form an identity as a reaction against what I saw around me, which I viewed as violent, indifferent, deceitful and hypocritical.
* Your teenage years:
In 2003, when Australia helped the yanks invade Iraq, I became heavily involved in the anti-war protests, and I identify this period as one of the most formative of my teenage years. I organised students from my school to strike and join the protests, which a handful did.
I was also attracted to the animal liberation movement; I began forming my own views on moral questions. I had become entirely fed up with the mediocrity of my peers and my family and began seeking out alternative philosophies. I was researching eco-anarchist philosophy online and was particularly captivated by the ideas of Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss, who coined the term Deep Ecology to refer to his blending of Spinozan metaphysics and the Ghandian ethics of non-violence.
I stopped eating meat, I stopped going to church with the family on a Sunday and volunteered for the Greens party.
I left school frustrated, emotionally exhausted, and confused about my future.
I worked in an office for 6 months to save up enough money to travel to India, Nepal and Tibet with two friends in 2006.
I was 18, had just come out as gay.
* Your 20s:
I eventually enrolled to do a double degree at Monash University, an arts degree majoring in Anthropology and a visual arts degree majoring in painting. I was going out to gay clubs every weekend, usually by myself, meeting strangers, staying out until dawn, experimenting with drugs.
I had my first big museum exhibition in 2009 at Heide Museum of Modern Art.
In 2010, I had a mental breakdown, this culminated in a disastrous set of events in which I found myself sectioned, detained in a psychiatric facility against my will. After my release a few weeks later, I bought some embroidery canvas and some coloured wool and a few needles and started slowly teaching myself needlepoint.
At the time, I was still on heavy medication, which I was trying to slowly wean myself off. I found this process really cathartic and having been making textile works ever since.
In 2013, a work called ‘EVERYTHING IS FUCKED’ that I made for a group exhibition at Linden gallery in St. Kilda, was raided by the police after a cantankerous member of the public complained about its content. I was charged with the production of illegal pornography, and eventually had to go to court to defend the charges.
The following year, the Magistrate dismissed the charges against me, and the police were ordered to pay my legal costs, which was a great result.
I spent the next few years expanding my practice, working full time in textiles and installation.
* Your 30s so far:
Trying to take it one day at a time…
My personal motto is from William Blake:
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”
When and why did you first become interested in art and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
Once I was in VCE, I studied art, and knew I wanted to be an artist. Our class visited James Gleeson’s 2004 retrospective at the NGV, ‘Beyond the Screen of Sight’, which blew my mind. I went back and saw it by myself 5 or 6 times.
I was particularly taken by his small, collaged works on paper, featuring male nudes cut from old physique magazines interpolated into ambiguous scenarios rendered in watercolour. It was the first time I had seen ‘queer art’, and I found it immediately affirming. It helped influence my view that art could be anything, art, at its core, was a fluid, emancipatory space.
I was also taken with Juan Davila’s NGV retrospective in 2006, in which homoerotic themes were blended seamlessly with politics and art historical references.
If you had to explain your art to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
My work is a woefully inadequate apology to nature for the crimes of our species.
Who are some of your favourite artists, writers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
In my youth I was very interested in psychedelic art and literature especially that associated with the “beat generation”. I read Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna who both inspired my earlier work.
I had also been reading William S. Burroughs a lot, particularly his Magnum Opus ‘Naked Lunch’ which he wrote, then literally cut up the manuscript and sticky taped it back together. It remains one of the most nightmarish books of the 20th century. The dystopian and unabashedly homoerotic nature of Burroughs work, which I read extensively, including his works, Junky, Queer, and The Wild Boys, influenced my work a great deal.
Art influences are too numerous to elaborate… Caravaggio, Bernini, Adolf Wolfli, Howard Finster, Ferdinand Cheval, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Tetsumi Kudo, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Paper Rad, Thomas Hirschhorn, Yayoi Kusama, Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Takashi Murakami, Tracey Emin, Rover Thomas.
In terms of music, it depends what mood I am in, which changes every 20 minutes.
I like everything really.
If people wanted to look at your art, work with you or buy some of your wares – where should they visit and how should they get in touch?
Hugo Michell Gallery: firstname.lastname@example.org
STATION Gallery: email@example.com
Odds and Ends
In your 2016 interview with Mark Feary (published via Gertrude) you say a very interesting phrase:
“Everything that exists has some secret history that can never be entirely discovered.”
… your comment is evocative of history, the occult, the gnostic and even Donna Tartt’s iconic novel of the same name…
Can you please elaborate on and explain it further?
I think I was referring to the way in which our linguistic or cultural context frames reality, and that this process is extremely limited, singular, and relative. We might say everything is just “matter” and we experience individual objects only in so far as we can neatly categorize them.
As soon as some perception lands on the threshold of our understanding, it is immediately cast as alien, abject, obscene, dangerous, or threatening in its radical “otherness”.
As an agnostic, I believe things are generally unknowable, and that human knowledge of so-called reality is extremely limited.
We know you studied ancient history (along with painting and archaeology) at university and we were wondering what some of your favourite ancient myths and legends are?
… and what it is about them that you love?
Maybe there is no such thing as a myth or legend.
That implies some things are real and objective knowledge, and everything else is fanciful or made-up.
But to take the question at face value: it’s hard to go past the one about the man in the near-East two thousand years ago who was put to death for being an anti-government agitator and then rose from the dead three days later claiming to be the son of God…pretty wild.
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
I would like to live sometime before human animals entered the picture…maybe in a Jurassic swamp?
Just for some peace and quiet.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Even as a small child, I never really bothered with toys.
I do think most toys insult the natural intelligence and imaginative powers of children.
I collected feathers, gumnuts, gemstones, coins, shells, postage stamps.
I was also into dress-ups though, and makeup.
Does sex change everything?
Umm, I guess it depends on what you mean by sex?
What are the top 3 items you own?
My glasses – for obvious reasons.
Scrabble board – try and play everyday.
A pebble I found on the beach which is shaped like a bar of soap.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
It was too disjointed to explain I think.
There is a theory I like that the pandemic is making everyone have really weird dreams.
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for?
Honestly, I would prefer to be forgotten…
All images supplied by Paul Yore.