by Vasili Kaliman
An Australian, New York-based, Art Consultant
One of my favorite Instagram accounts is about a business that cleans up homes occupied by hoarders, those people who are powerless to part with even the tiniest possession, the cumulative effect becoming a mountain of junk overtaking their home and lives. It’s a disease of obsession, commitment, and repetition, that buries the sufferer in its symptoms. Hoarders are like artists.
Paul Yore is a hoarder in many ways. His obsession is a catalog of cultural symbols, imagery, and motifs you might find chaotically arranged within a crime scene. Yore is also a worldbuilder, the material of which is a staggering cache of cultural, sexual, historical, and political imagery that makes up his artistic identity. His work is a peephole into a mind that rapidly becomes voyeuristic, dealing with socially sensitive topics as well as images of questionable taste. Bringing them to the forefront is not about shock value, it’s simply what artists should do. Art can inspire questions on a range of topics, including the conditioning and experiences that have formed our beliefs and morality. Great art has the power to change your mind and hopefully your life.
Yore’s images are often hallucinatory collages, jumbled so ridiculously, stripped from any context, they become beautifully gross, surreal spectacles, just like a hoarder’s home. It’s maximalism rather than minimalism. The artist compresses huge time scales into a moment where everything is happening simultaneously, without seeming to move toward a conclusion or climax, and without a true protagonist. These are aesthetic and psychological spaces that have never existed before. It’s a new form of storytelling which is always in the present tense, that just keeps going, much like what you’d see in a contemporary TV series.
Yore’s recent text-based tapestries with proclamations such as ‘Let the World Burn’, ‘Pig Scum’, and ‘God is Dead’ would not have been out of place on signs held up at BLM protests that have taken place all over America for the last three months. I live in New York and have been in the middle of it all, it happens outside my apartment window almost every day. The 2020 piece ‘Truth isn’t Truth’ is saturated with symbols overlaid on a map of Australia. They reference a myriad of issues including borders and boundaries, colonialism, social justice, political narratives, and LGBT identity. The symbols (or icons) could easily be iPhone emojis, which of course have now become the shared language of the world.
Other recent works by Yore are lovingly made patchwork textiles, populated by unrestrained imagery including cartoons, nationalist symbols, gay-porn, political mantras, and emblems of capitalism. The artist looks at society from the bottom up (perhaps the sewer), examining cultural phenomena that many artists would consider unworthy subject matter, which he distorts with combinations of caricature and satire, but articulates with acute observation and a worldview.
Working within the tradition of laborious handicraft, Yore’s practice is jarring in a world where everything happens in an unending ‘now’, without a future or past, ruled by social media, dopamine hits from ‘likes’, clickbait, and relentless amounts of new content created every second. The painstaking, almost masochistic construction of his work, is an antidote to our culture of immediacy.
Having lived as an Australian in New York for the past five years, what’s become clear is you can’t wait for the world to come to you as an artist. Australian artists haven’t had the luxury of enjoying the same level of global recognition as their peers overseas, but are as good as anywhere else around the world. Even though globalization has made us reevaluate the provincialism problem in the Australian art world via an internet connection and Instagram account, nothing comes close to experiencing artworks in the optimum conditions of exhibition spaces.
Artists like Paul Yore showing internationally play a huge role in enmeshing Australia into the global art scene. It raises stakes for both the artist and everyone back home. Something synergistic occurs when an exhibition takes place outside of an artist’s homeland. The very gesture of removing artwork from the context and associations of your own country to show elsewhere amplifies it. It creates a discourse about an artist’s place in the world, it attracts new audiences, it stimulates conversations, it changes minds and lives, including the artist’s. It’s something digital space can’t replicate (yet). In that sense, it’s a powerful and radical act. In 2020, it’s revolutionary.