FCPM: Time Held at a Standstill with Paulu Bruselas

Paulu Bruselas

Paulu Bruselas remembers exactly where and when his love for making art was rekindled: it was in the airport, while waiting for his father who got stuck in a five-hour flight delay. He happened to have a notebook and pen in hand. So to kill time in the grueling wait, he drew. 

Sketching the scene in front of him, he emplaced himself in that specific juncture of time, place, and feeling. That night by the guardhouse at the airport parking lot, awaiting his father.

Until today, such is a scheme that constitutes Paulu’s practice as a visual artist. Working mainly with watercolor, paper, and acrylic, he paints scenes and stories—a tendency for narrative likely rooted from his background in literature. “I like there to be some sort of story. Even if it’s just a single scene or moment, I try to put as much context as I can for there to be a sense of place and a sense of time.”

Moments frozen, moments in motion

To tell stories, Paulu holds time at a standstill—until he sets it in motion to tell its passing. He depicts narrative through movement, conveyed through his distinctive maneuver of line, color, perspective, and framing. From these, the story unrolls. A comet descending into the sky in one frame. Until it erupts into an atomic explosion in the next. Other times, the whole story is packed in a single frame—an entire movie scene with the plot laid out for us to unravel.

It is a case of wistfulness, he explains, pointing to a nagging feeling of things passing by too quickly. “I always have a sense that things are ending or already over and this makes me very sad often.” Responding to this difficulty of being ‘in the moment,’ he thus paints things he wants to remember. “I paint to distract myself and to live an emotion or moment or be with a person a second time (while painting) and a third time (seeing the finished painting).”

Midnight Cruisin’

In Midnight Cruisin’, his first solo online release with Cartellino, Paulu captures a certain point late at night when it morphs into a bearer of both refuge and peril. The Japanese city pop genre lends conceptual and aesthetic influences to the show—it borrows its name from singer Kingo Hamada’s eponymous album, from which he also abstracts its bittersweet tenor. Compared to his previous works, Midnight Cruisin’ takes a literal darker direction. Still, it maintains joy—albeit one surrounded by darkness.

After all, the show is about that time at midnight when it appears darker yet more open. For him, it is when “...anything can happen, the worst things but also the best things. A few more poor decisions, made in seconds, ripple and cascade through all past and future points of a lifetime.”

Images of transit communicate this notion of flux, where vehicles and roadways form his core motif. They drive us to the midnight’s possibilities: of solitude, longing, romance, new beginnings. Perhaps, even of death.

Spontaneity and strength in process

Whatever the plotline his works may tell, they unfold only through spontaneity in his process. Paulu veers away from making studies and works directly on paper or canvas instead—beginning only with the slightest idea of what to do and discovering things as they happen. It is a practice that embraces mistakes: “When you paint directly, you make mistakes that are inevitable. You have to accept and work around them, which makes the work more raw, lively, and energetic.” 

Prior preparations come only when he readies his materials, especially paper. Before painting, he submerges the paper in water and dries it with gummed tape. “When you do this you alter the paper on a molecular level. The paper becomes sturdier and more receptive to water and pigment. Painting becomes much more satisfying and you can do more because the paper is ten times stronger.”

Where the highway leads next

At present, most of Paulu’s works are grounded in reality, such as his memories, loved ones, and experiences. Yet when asked of his future pursuits, more magical subjects appear underway. “A nice direction I think to explore would be dreams or spectacular things that rarely or never happen in real life.” 

Years since that five-hour flight delay, he still works with paper. But now it is sturdier, ready to capture more than what reality has to offer. For it is in the spaces between clarity and chaos, readiness and chance, life and magic, that his stories emerge. From here, he accelerates—off to take us to new heights.