Paper Musings

Over the past weeks I have started sourcing the paper for my exhibition. To start my collection I have found some beautiful raw card, but it will be an ongoing search to build a selection that has the right weight and smoothness for the fine line drawings I am developing. I have learned you can find most things in Bangkok – eventually. (Although give me a heads-up if you know where to find Faber-Castell graphite sticks.)

Paper has always been my artistic weapon of choice. It seems to sing for me with a clarity and an intimate nuance that I connect with, so forgive me if I fetishise the page a little inappropriately in this post. I am interested in the story within the inherent structure of the paper; the construction, the sweat, the grime, the foxing and spotting, the thoughts and musings of passing hands, all absorbed by the page, manifesting through subtle expressions of character. For millennia [paper] has been the surface on and in which wisdom and experience has been preserved for humanity; I believe you can sense with the lightest touch of your fingertips when a piece of paper has truly lived.

Anyone who has installed exposed paper works in a gallery space knows the horror of watching the paper’s personality rebel against the humidity in the room and warp its previously flat body into a contorted husk against the wall. Paper has a sense of soul. It absorbs the moisture of a space, breathes the air, hosts tiny bio-organisms and sucks in the odours and fumes. It responds with morphing, discolouring, bleeding, and it becomes a subtle reflection of that location.

Over the past few years I have had an exhibition proposal that has reared its head in numerous guises, which involves mildewing paper and canvas in [various] locations, for [various] reasons. As the materials are exposed for long periods of time to the environmental conditions of a location, the affects of that place will be allowed to embed and impress themselves onto and into the artwork. I see this as a form of long-term printmaking, and it is a conceptually flexible technique that fits neatly with a number of my prospective projects. Unfortunately, iterations of this proposal haven’t fared well with galleries, usually because no responsible, sane curator wants to welcome potentially hazardous mildew spores into their galleries, risking the wellbeing of their entire collection. HOF Art, to my knowledge, has no such petty reservations, and I will be using this residency opportunity to finally try something I’ve been wanting to do since 2010.

My paper for this exhibition is going to be a spy of sorts, infiltrating various relevant sacred sights and locations around Bangkok, absorbing and expressing the essence of each location. To give you an example, I will leave a page for 40 days to sit at the base of Wat Bang Kluea, where it will witness prayers, meditations and intercessions; my intention is that a sense of enlightenment (or perhaps a loss of innocence) will imbue itself upon the page, and the humidity, heat, and black air of Bangkok will sink in as subtle markings and ghostly transfigurations.

Over the next month, while my paper is out in the streets of Bangkok, I will keep studiously developing my drawings to overlay on top of them. At the moment I feel like these drawings should be kept light, minimal, and more like a spider’s web stretched over the page.

Passing thoughts:
 - I am sorely tempted not to tarnish these pages with figurative elements.  
 - The effect in these attached images communicate such a beautiful, melancholic sense of place that resists complication. Perhaps a simple title in the corner, written in fine pencil, with the location and dates, would be suffice.
 - Simple gold leaf motifs would look stunning on this paper ground.
 - There is a gothic aspect to this experimentation I regret not exploiting while I lived in Dunedin.
 - Will I be allowed to bring these into New Zealand?