Tamboerskloof’s Jody Paulsen has always felt the most comfortable when painting or drawing.
He always had an idea of what he wanted to do as a career. Now, it has come full circle with his win at the 19th annual Arts and Culture Trust ImpACT Awards in the design category.
Jody was one of five young creatives who won awards last month. He says he never expected to win.
“I didn’t know how important it was, I was just happy to be nominated. It was a surprise, and it’s always nice to win awards because it encourages you to keep going.”
The ImpACT Awards for young professionals are given annually to young artists or businesses on an upward trajectory.
The public has a say in the nomination process and categories cover theatre, visual art, music, dance and design.
Jody, who grew up in Strandfontein and went to Muizenberg High School, is working on his debut solo show, scheduled for February next year, and spends most of his time at his Tamboerskloof studio.
“My first gallery closed, and then I went about a year and a half figuring out where to have the show. At the start of this year, I decided to go with SMAC gallery in Woodstock.”
It’s a moment he’s been working towards since he left school three years ago.
“It was a long process to get started. Now it is happening and I am freaking out. I feel like there is a certain expectation about this show which I don’t think would have been if I was fresh out of school.”
He says it’s important to stay focused when starting a new body of work.
“I find I work very well if I’m uncomfortable. If there is something going slightly pear shaped on one side of your life then it is nice to focus on something else. That’s kind of my approach when making new work.”
He believes art is an important platform to express views or even parody other people’s views.
“I use a lot of text in my work, and I like adding humour to it. People open up to humour easily even when they feel detached from the content. You do have a social responsibility as a an artist, but I like finding these strange parallels between my personal experiences and what’s happening in the world.”
He also dabbles in clothing design, but says the thought process between that and his artwork is completely different.
“Clothing is about what I like to wear but it is functional. People need to wear these things so it is a different way of working. With art, it is different because for me it has to resonate with something that moves you. That authenticity is really important in that space.”
Jody says the fun thing about art is that experience plays a big part in it. “I might be eating the most delicious chocolate cake that I can’t stop thinking about and then all of a sudden you will see cake in the work.”
As an only child growing up, he says, he was always comfortable on the floor with a box of crayons, and lost in his own imagination would keep himself entertained for hours.
He discovered collages when he was about six, which is what he ended up doing his Master’s degree at UCT.
“The idea of wanting to be an artist feels so out of reach when you are young. Once you go to school and just do it you always surprise yourself and do things you never thought you had in you.”
But it also takes a lot of personal discipline to be an artist and a hunger for knowledge.
“I love tackling things like gayness and queerness in my work. If I didn’t have any knowledge on the queer body I’d be making very problematic work. I think that knowledge gives you empathy and allows you to engage with things. I am also obsessed with writers and I sometimes like to think of my work as short essays.”
Jody feels it’s a good time to be a young artist in Cape Town.
However, the flip side to that is that the bar has been raised significantly and competition is fierce.
“I think the door is opened a lot wider than maybe a few years ago. There are so many talented young artists all in their twenties doing amazing work. You have to bring your A game because otherwise nobody will see you.”
One of the highlights of his career so far, says Jody, was having a show in Milan, Italy. “That was scary but really nice because it was doing things where there was a proper infrastructure. I am in love with that city.”
He advises young artists to follow their passion but stay disciplined along the way.
“If you are going to be an artist or designer you need a really strong sense of self. Art making and designing are very personal disciplines, if you are going to give that much of yourself you really have to believe in yourself. Nobody else can do that for you.”