Tristan Hoare announces Paper, an exhibition curated with Flora Hesketh and Omar Mazhar opening in London. Exhibitions focusing on paper often look through the lens of ‘works on paper,’ but here the material comes to the forefront, bringing together artists who use paper to make the work itself.
The existence of the word papyrophilia, meaning the 'preoccupation or love of paper,’ hints at the role it has played in the history of mankind. The invention of paper in China in the first century changed the course of history, this new technology superseding all others and allowing for the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. Once printing as we know it was developed in Japan in 770 AD, this light and inexpensive material became indispensable. The importance of paper is undeniable, and today, despite the omnipresence of the digital in the world, we learn to write on paper, books are still printed, we continue to read news from it and we package and transport our goods in it. We all have a relationship to paper and this communal experience of the material is the point of departure for the exhibition.
Paper is full of paradoxes; robust yet fragile, light but has great strength, humble yet its impact on our civilisation is huge. There are so many different qualities of paper and it can be made from a large number of plants and trees. Each one has its particular properties, smell, sound, feel. It can be manipulated in extraordinary ways; cut, folded, burnt, glued, assembled, layered, printed on, painted on. Artists who work with paper are often fanatical about hunting for the perfect paper, and have a cult admiration for this natural material.
The techniques included in the exhibition include collage, embossing, folding, cutting, burning, papier mâché and coloured paper pulp. Collage (from the French to glue or stick together) was one of the foundations of Modern art, developed by Braque and Picasso as a rebellious technique to subvert what had come before and build multiple textures and points of perspective. Although we do not have work by these early pioneers, their influence can be felt throughout this exhibition through works such as Aquarium, a collage by William Turnbull from 1949, which was inspired by his recent experiences as a pilot and subsequent interest in movement, speed and space. Collage was an important part of his artistic practice allowing for experimentation which informed other areas of his work. John Stezaker uses collage to different effect, thrusting pre-existing images into new dialogues ‘as a way of looking at what you are consuming all the time.’ Similarly, Kathryn Maple reappropriates her own paintings by cutting them up and creating new works through collage.
As well as building with paper, there are artists who transform it. Emilie Pugh stretches her paper and burns the surface with an incense burner to create patterns of negative space. Korean artist Minjung Kim also burns her works, repetitively layering mulberry Hanji paper to conveys the process of emotional healing and meditation. This spiritual quality is echoed in Astha Butail's formations, reflections of Sanskrit songs echoed in paper. Y. Z. Kami’s Endless Prayers series form madalas of cutout paper, metaphors of heaven and earth and our place in it. Parme Baratier makes his own paper from the plants he grows. Paper is his obsession. The plants and flowers are photographed and printed on the paper he has made from them. He relates to the texture and fibre of each paper as another artists might to their paint or clay. Equally dedicated to the material is Alice von Maltzahn who explores the materiality of paper, here working with Japanese kozuke paper, skillfully cutting and removing individual pieces to form intricate, large-scale paper cut outs.
The exhibition celebrates a material which can easily be taken for granted. By bringing it centre stage, we are able look at artists’ relationship with paper, the way is has been employed, and how it continues to be actively used today.
About the Exhibition
Dates: 8 June - 7 July, 2023
Venue: Tristan Hoare
Courtesy of Tristan Hoare.