Paul P. & Scott Treleaven














Paul P. & Scott Treleaven: Pas de deux

Paul P. and Scott Treleaven are both internationally renowned artists. Originally from Canada, they have respectively enjoyed numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions at major contemporary art galleries, museums and institutions worldwide.  They have been living together for over 10 years. Guillaume Benaich sits down with them both for a rare and intimate conversation about their art, their process, their inspirations and the ways in which they do and don’t influence each others work.

For more information about Paul P. please click: HERE.

For more information about Scott Treleaven please click: HERE.


Interview by Guillaume Benaich


Paul P. & Scott Treleaven in Conversation with Guillaume Benaich


Where in the world are you, and why?

Scott: We’ve just returned from Barcelona, where we were each working on a body of prints with a studio called Poligrafa. And now we’re here in Paris, in your dinning room.


Okay, what brought you to making art?

Scott: I can honestly say – and I know this sounds like a very stock answer – for I long as I can remember I’ve always made art, drawn pictures, taken photographs, made sculptures, written stories…I think it just became my way of perceiving and negotiating my place in the world. It’s the only thing I know how to do.


What about you Paul?

Paul: My answer is somehow different. As a child, I was always very proficient at drawing but had really no interest in being an artist. I didn’t think about that, I guess. I just didn’t think enough about the future to make a choice that way. It’s only in late high school, just before I went to university, that I decided to make art. Almost by default of everything else not making sense.


By default?

Paul: Totally by default, yes!


What inspires you today? Would you say you both share certain inspirations?

Scott: We have points of overlap. We definitely have points of extreme diversions too. There are things that we absolutely don’t agree on, aesthetically, with seemingly no common ground whatsoever, but the points of overlap are constantly presenting themselves, in the strangest ways.

Paul: Recently, I have really been influenced by the Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen and by the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank and by – well I continue to be inspired by Whistler. Whistler is like that overarching inspiration in my work.

Scott: He’s your touchstone.

Paul: It’s almost like I’m his student. When I was just printmaking, I was applying Whistler’s way of printmaking.

Scott: I’ve always had an anthropological bent to my work.  I like to focus on sub-cultures, so right now I’m preoccupied with what could be called “drug literature”. Specifically I’ve been interested in how certain substances, that were previously sanctioned for religious or ritual use, found their way into youth and other subcultures, and how these shifts, and the creative fallout, is recorded and historicized. A lot of my work hinges on examinations of these moments when the “marginal” becomes popularized or, more interestingly, how things return to the margins. A good example is a book I read last summer, ‘The White Hand Society’, which follows Allen Ginsberg’s interaction with Timothy Leary. A meeting of art, spirituality and science that was both a tremendous success and a total calamity. It’s a phenomenal book.

© Paul P. “The ‘X’ Factor in Beholding”, Exhibition view, Tempo Rubato, Tel Aviv, 2012


Paul, for your current exhibition at Tempo Rubato, you made a series of mahogany tables. I believe as an artist you never worked on sculptural objects of any kind before, how did this idea start?

Paul: I came across a book about Whistler’s interior design, his exhibition strategies, his apartments, which were really consciously designed. I also found that he collaborated with an architect designer named E. W. Godwin, who was his contemporaneous friend and also did a house for Oscar Wilde. I started looking at his furniture. It was based on Japanese design but really modern for its time. It sort of presaged Bauhaus, but within the  Victorian period. It’s that reforming spirit that attracted me. I became inspired to make something that engaged the space more specifically and my way of getting close to that has been these tables. The scale is proportionate to the paintings sizes. They are placed around the gallery in a way that…

Scott: …they conduct people.

Paul: They do. Recently a lot of my work has been about landscapes and working en plein air, and having something physical that you can walk around or move around, in a very simple way, seems to reference some of the movements of the artist, to switch on the idea of presence.

© Scott Treleaven. Chicago noise band Locrian provides a live score to Scott Treleaven’s super8 film of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Last 7 Words (2009)

Scott, in just a few years, your work transitioned from underground fanzines, quite figurative collages and films to more abstract, expressionist drawings and paintings. What’s up with that?

Scott: (laughs) Well, sometimes the artist is the last person that should be asked about their motivations for doing something, because I don’t think the artist always knows. What I try to do is find the best way to describe particular concepts that I think might have been neglected, or are in need of a new perspective, and as these ideas develop I sometimes find that I need to change the medium to suit them. With the films, zines and collages, I was heavily invested in Symbolism, the Romanticism, punk, nineteenth century occultism, all of those lost ideals, and whether or not they still had viability in a contemporary context. Eventually, as I started to expand beyond those things, I realised that the collages I was making weren’t flexible enough to communicate the new ideas that I wanted to talk about. So while I started to focus on bringing more abstract elements into the collages, sort of loosening them up, I also developed a completely separate body of work that was totally non-representational. For the first year or two, I wasn’t really showing those drawings to anyone, because I felt they needed to develop without any kind of pressure or expectation. Pretty quickly though, they started to become more fulfilling than just about anything I’d done before. They sit at a perfect crossroads between all of the difference disciplines I’ve worked in.


Scott once told me that your motto, Paul, is Whistler’s “No day without a line”. You both are very committed artists. What are your working methods?

Paul: Was that Whistler, first of all?

Scott: I think you said that was Whistler.

Paul: It is more like David Hockney’s “get up and paint”.

Scott: It might be a Latin phrase, come to think of it. But speaking of Hockney, I have to mention this. The first time I stayed over at Paul’s apartment, I noticed that he’d written on a yellow wall in pink paint: “get up and paint”, right beside his bed, so it was the first thing he saw in the morning.


How would you say that translates into your work then?

Paul: Now I understand no day without a line better. I understand the necessity to work and to record time, I don’t keep a journal or anything. My daily life is embedded in the artwork that I make. My earlier work was more labour intensive than it is now, that labour was it’s own record of time, but things have started to loosen up and my new work is more about recording a moment.

Scott: You had a moment where you made a drawing a day.

Paul: Yes, sometime several! Now, as travel has become a large part of my routine I realize that there are days with and without a line. I can now appreciate time wasted in terms of time regained.

Scott: It’s the stuff of art. The time that is wasted is then regained in the creation.

Paul: In a Proustian kind of way. In my own practice, I’ve tried to bring those two ideas together, the daily work ethic, and also in the understanding that one must lag and then catch up. That’s where the magic usually happens.

© Scott Treleaven. A Quick Trip to Alamut, 2011 Pastel, gouache, house paint and collage 123 x 95 cm

Do you agree, Scott?

Scott: I agree with Paul. I prefer to work every single day. But I’m finding it easier to cope with the idea of being away from the studio for certain periods of time. You have to refill the vessel.


You often share a studio, how does it work and what comes out of it?

Scott: We keep our areas as divided as best we can, because we both require an intense amount of concentration and solitude to work. We share studios generally because it’s convenient to do so. I prefer to work isolated, if I can.

Paul: I think it’s been based on circumstances. When available, it’s good to have something alone. When together, it’s worked out well.


So what came out of it?

Paul: Having each other’s opinion available.

Scott: Our biggest innovations tend to happen when we’re apart. We have to have our breakthroughs independently from one another, but the developments of those breakthroughs tend to happen a lot through dialogues that we have after.


When you are sharing a space, you are also sharing ideas.

Scott: Yes, it is funny too because opinion can be very diverging. Paul often likes pieces of mine that I might consider failed, and he’ll encouraged me to pick them up again, and conversely pieces that Paul considers to be masterstrokes I would tell him they’re not finished. There’s also a process of refuting the other person’s opinion as well, in order to maintain parameters of our own, our autonomy as artists.

Paul: The works starts it’s engagement with opinion and audience, even if the audience is of one person.


© Paul P. Untitled, 2011, watercolour on paper, 24 x 20 cm

You have lived in Toronto, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Giverny, Milan and Venice, to name a few of your consecutive homes or residencies. How is your environment influencing your work, and your migrations for that matter?

Paul: I think the idea of travel really opened up the second stage of where I am as an artist. This happened most strongly for me when I came to Paris. Something here activated my sensitivity, to light, mostly. I feel like Paris is the perfect city in which to be struck by environmental factors. To notice light on buildings, magic hour when things go blue, how the city changes from cool grey daylight to a warm nocturnal feeling when the lamps are all lit, how the city changes temperatures and colours.

Scott: I’ve always traveled a lot. My mother has an almost diagnosable wanderlust. She still keeps her backpack at the foot of her bed. So I traveled a lot as a kid, and later on, touring with my films…it’s always struck me as a very normal, necessary thing. I think what Paul said about Paris is totally true. Allowing somewhere new to become “home” alters your perspective. Not only by having a different day-to-day environment, but it starts to change your understanding of everything you’ve experienced before. Calling it critical distance is maybe oversimplifying, but that’s part of it. Now however, the idea of being still for a while is becoming more attractive.  The less distraction I have now, the better.


Is traveling a distraction?

Scott: Traveling is a distraction. Because it’s irresistible. Part of the reason why I love my studio in Toronto is that I’m infatuated with Paris, New York, all those places, but the distractions are so magnificent, that it requires a balance. I have go somewhere that’s so familiar that it’s no distraction at all. My fondness for Toronto is something that’s only recently developed…


Is there a question you would like to ask each other?

Scott: We talk to each other so much! I feel like we’ve asked each other almost everything. What question would you ask?

Paul: Well, I suppose: where you see yourself now in reference to abstraction? Is this a holding point, at least in your imagination – is  representation a place of no return (laughs)? Or are you simply at another point in a larger progress and movement?

Scott: It’s interesting you’d ask that, because your work is increasingly embracing abstraction, too. You know that I spend all of my time thinking about how people translate certain kinds of sensation and experience into language or images, and how images and language in turn elicit sensation. These are processes of abstraction.. Everything, as it passes from experience to memory, especially to language, becomes abstracted. So I feel like there’s something inevitable about arriving at this stage and that I’m obligated to pursue it. Did that answer your question?

Paul: Yes, for now.


G.B. 2012

Published: June 5th, 2012

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S+ Stimulant: Everything is Art

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