Paul Mok is a designer and artist who resides in New York City. He discusses with PATTERN his work and art exhibition that is currently being displayed at Gallery GAIA in Brooklyn, NY.
Terri Procopio: Can you talk a bit about your background?
Paul Mok: I grew up in Hong Kong where I spent the first 20+ years of my life. I have a bachelors degree in architecture from the University of Hong Kong and a master degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). I have lived and worked in various cities, including Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Tokyo, LA, Boston and New York.
TP: How did you become interested in architecture?
PM: Back in 2012, I spent an exchange semester at Princeton. In one of the first classes, a classmate began his self-introduction by saying, “I’ve always been obsessed with architecture and have always wanted to become an architect”. I remember how it troubled me that I could not say the same about myself, but at the same time I found the nature of the claim rather baffling.
You could say that my personal definition of architecture is rather ambiguous, and I’d like to think that it is a productive ambiguity that I have been maneuvering; especially through my recent works.
TP: What have been some inspiring moments of your career?
PM: In 2016, my mind was blown away twice. First was when I stepped into the Gardner Museum in Boston and “discovered” the theatrical courtyard. The second time was when I visited the Manus × Machina exhibition at the MET. I remember walking around and asking myself again and again: “who gave them permission?”- as in who gave them permission to design something so unapologetically personal?
TP: Have you collaborated with other designers, if yes who?
PM: I’ve collaborated with quite a few people since I moved to New York. I worked on graphic designs with musician Paul Grant (Eyelid Kid), an experimental garment design with choreographer Elenora Fae, and speculative architectural designs with landscape architect Isabella Bhoan of IFL Landscape. I recently worked on a few display designs with Amanda Maldonado, the founder of the lifestyle brand WORM NY.
TP: Please describe your current exhibition at Gallery GAIA.
PM: The gallery is in a small storefront of a building that is over fifty years old in Vinegar Hill, next to DUMBO. The building is so old that a small piece of wood floor peels off each time someone walks on it. Behind a rusting steam-radiator there is an old green door that is forever locked because it “opens to nothing”. I found it a perfect venue to exhibit my recent works.
I divided the space into 4 zones. The first is <You Killed A Kiwi – A Situation Comedy For Those With Wounded Egos>. Next is <A Fountain Head>. The third zone has seven stroke-drawings, twenty-nine pieces of short writings and a nursery rocking-chair on the floor. The nursery chair was part of an ongoing personal project that I temporarily titled <The Study of Mundane>. The fourth zone is a series of photos documenting the making process of some of my recent works.
TP: How do people purchase your work?
PM: People can contact me directly for any purchase, commission or collaborations.
TP: What do you see in the future for architecture and design?
PM: Most commentators in the design field seem to share the view that after this pandemic, consumers will become more aware of issues such as sustainability and ethical production processes. Design practice in general will likely operate a lot more locally and regionally rather than internationally.
Information on Paul’s Exhibtion
The exhibition will be on display at Gallery GAIA until the end of May or further notice. Please feel free to call the gallery at 917-704-9600 for any specific information.