Crash Gallery

How this Crash Gallery judge went from engineering to art to TV

Get to know Vancouver's Paul de Guzman, one of the art experts coming to Season 2 of Crash Gallery. The new season premieres Sunday, Feb. 5 on CBC Television.

Get to know Vancouver's Paul de Guzman, one of the art experts coming to Season 2 of Crash Gallery

When Crash Gallery returns for Season 2, it'll introduce a new panel of art experts including Vancouver's Paul de Guzman. (CBC)

He studied engineering, worked in tech — and then in 2002, Paul de Guzman launched an art career. But it's time for him to add another line to his resume: TV personality.

(Left to right) Crash Gallery director Fred Frame and art experts Bridget Moser, Paul de Guzman and Syrus Marcus Ware. (CBC)

The 52-year-old artist, who splits his time between Vancouver and Manila, is coming to Crash Gallery where he'll join fellow art experts Bridget Moser and Syrus Marcus Ware when the creative competition series returns to CBC on Feburary 5.

On each episode, these judges will share their takes on the artists' work before turning things over to the gallery audience.

The crowd ultimately decides who wins the final challenge — but what this trio has to say just might swing the vote.

Leading up to the premiere, we're going to help you get to know the panel a little better. So, let's meet...

Paul de Guzman, artist

Home base

Vancouver and Manila

What's your art about?

"I always say that my art is idea-based — my art is about a concept."

"There's always a concept that's being explored and the concept always comes from an individual perspective whether that's heritage, whether that's a mindset, a philosophy. But it's always dealing with things I've been thinking about for the past few years."

What topics are you thinking about at the moment, then?

"Well, I've been going back and forth from Manila a lot, you know? So I've been dealing with a lot of contemporary art from that region and I find that a lot of the contexts there are slowly creeping into my ideas here, and so that's the general theme of the work I'm doing right now."

"Vancouver — its artistic energies are very directed and focused. In Manila it's almost like anything goes."

I wanted to know how artists make art and the only way I could figure that out was to try and make art myself.- Paul de Guzman,

"The ideas that I'm bringing back right now are stemming from my childhood — some of the games I used to play as a kid and I'm trying to put it into a Canadian context. There's a lot of history involved in those games, so a lot of that is getting funnelled into the work I'm doing right now."

How did you become an artist?

"I wasn't trained as an artist — I was actually trained as an engineer."

"I'd always been interested in art, ever since I was a kid, but it was a fairly general, unfocused sort of interest. Then when I came to Canada, I became more interested in getting involved in contemporary art."

"I was in my late 20s when I started to appreciate art. I started buying art and becoming sort of an art collector. It got to a point where I wanted to know how artists make art, and the only way I could figure that out was to try and make art myself. And so I said, 'OK, I'll try to do that.' That's how it all started. [...] I was actually working on the computer side of an engineering firm at the time."

Installation view of "the people are the city the people are the city the people are the city," Paul de Guzman's 2013 outdoor public art project sponsored by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and CBC. (

"I was going into the galleries regularly, and I met some people [at Atelier Gallery in Vancouver] and they were wondering what my art looked like."

"So I showed it to them and they said, 'Well, why don't we show it in a gallery, in a group show?'"

"I had three pieces and they were all sold to members of the board of directors at the Vancouver Art Gallery. So they said, 'OK, we might as well give you a solo show.' And so they gave me a solo show, and for my very first solo show I got a review in Canadian Art magazine."

"And I thought, 'Oh, this is easy!' (laughs)"

Is it, though? Is it really that easy?

"It's not easy at all! (laughs) The lesson is you're given certain opportunities and you just go with those opportunities and you don't know where they 're going to lead you, so I just followed one opportunity and that's what happened with my so-called art career."

Why did you want to be on Crash Gallery?

"It's one of those opportunities that we were talking about. I'd never been in this type of situation, and I thought, 'OK, I'm going to go and see where this goes.'"

"But I'm also very interested in the notion of reaching the public, the very general public. [...] I think when you're in an institution or academic circle your public is very limited, and the audience is similar."

If I was on the show I'd be so anxious. But the thing about anxiety is it fuels creativity.- Paul de Guzman,

"Deep inside the artistic process is this desire to share the knowledge that I have with other people. [...] Knowledge about art, knowledge about appreciating art and the knowledge that when you're trying to approach art there's many different levels to approach it — it's not just one way, right?"

What's your judging style?

"Hmm...I have an opinion but I can be swayed otherwise."

"I'm maybe even ambivalent. I'm the ambivalent judge. I can't make up my mind."

What's the must-see challenge from Season 2?

Episode 5: conveyor belt dioramas

The challenge: Build a diorama that explores the theme of "home." To do it, the artists must rush to select supplies that appear at random on conveyor belt. Anything they grab must be included in their final piece.

In this Episode 5 challenge what artists can use is limited to what comes out on the conveyor belt. (Crash Gallery)

"I really loved the challenge with the conveyor belt. I just have this thing about dioramas and model making. It maybe stems from my engineering and architectural background, but I found that really cool because they had to wait there for whatever shit comes out of the conveyor belt."

Would you ever compete on Crash Gallery, though?

"I think I would be filled with anxiety. I think it'd be cool for the first five minutes and then totally anxious for the next 25 because as an artist I tend to take a long time to deal with things."

"I think the one thing I appreciated about the show is the commitment of the artist to come up with an idea and commit to that idea to its fruition no matter where it's going to lead them because there's really no time to change your mind."

"If I was on the show I'd be so anxious. But the thing about anxiety is it fuels creativity, so you never know."

Paul de Guzman with one of his posters for Vancouver Coastal: a nomad's guide to the floating world. Posters from the series were installed in Vancouver transit shelters last year. (

Season 2 of Crash Gallery premieres on CBC Television Sunday, Feb. 5 at 9:30 p.m. Until then, catch up on what you missed. Watch all of Season 1 online.