Monday, 24 October 2011

Paper Chase

As those of you regularly read my blog know I have quite the affinity with paper (irony not lost typing this on an iPad) & the wonderful things that it can do when manipulated by the right person.

Dame di Cartone, 17th Century I
Christian Tagliavini

With Christian Tagliavini's show looming in the near distance I have been reminded of the work using paper as a subject or material in photography that I have come across over the years and why those images had such an impression upon me at the time & still do now.

The first thing to grasp is why looking at paper is so satisfying? Surely something that is so intrinsic to our lives (despite attempts to create paper free offices, stick to computers) we still gear paper receipts for goods, mail throughmour letterboxes, (not to mention junk mail) newspapers, books etc.... The list is endless and countless alternatives are being conceived of as I write. BUT, it's still here!

Am I right in thinking that I am being somewhat nostalgic by enjoying paper for what it is, an object that can be held? Easier on the eyes than a bright screen (yes I know the Kindle tries to compete here) but you can't smell a screen (yet). It has been proven that neurologically the smell of aging paper actually releases a scent that we are biologically attracted to (this is something that second hand bookshops have relied upon for years) & of course smell is always linked to memory. Is it the association with knowledge? Who can say.

All I know is I love the stuff, to look at, smell, touch & play with. As one of the few (well it seems like a rare thing to do in our contemporary streamlined world) people who still write letters to friends on a weekly basis, I am an avid purchaser of paper, fountain pen cartridges & always keep my eyes peeled for something unusual to write letters on or adapt to write on in order to vary the experience for both myself & the recipient. Perhaps this is why I love to look at a good image where paper has been used in a new & interesting way.

I also do collage, so more about this later....

So where to begin? Without a doubt it has to be the great Frederick Sommer.
Here he is:

Not sure who took this as I found it online, but it is a lovely portrait of the great man.

Followed by a wonderful image of him at work. What is great about finding this is the scale of his paper, which when photographed seems much smaller & intimate.  

'Cut - Paper' is well worth hunting down.

Well known in the USA, but lesser known here in the UK I am always singing his praises when it comes to suggesting great still life ideas. Through the simple act of cutting paper & using the light & shadow upon it he can celebrate the way in which the paper looks & even behaves as it curls upwards. Proving that the simplicity of this idea & lack of pretension can result in this dramatic way of seeing something so simple with such appreciative clarity to open up the eyes of others who see it. 

Frederick Sommer
Three Graces
gelatin silver print, ca. 24 x 19 cm
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Sommer's talent for literally playing with perspective is exhibited beautifully here:

His work has had a great influence on other photographer's, no doubt an influence on a living photographer - better known for his camera obscura - Abelardo Morell. 

Alice in Wonderland has been used by so many artists I can barely count them all. Testament to the prolonged fascination with the themes in the book & the artwork that illustrates it, here Morell literally brings the book 'to life' through a careful combination of sculptural collage & cinematic lighting to enhance the spectacle which can be found within the books pages. Reminiscent of Victorian paper theatres, such a s this one:

Morell's still life work is also stunning. This beautiful image is a reminder of why we just love the book as an object, not just for what is contained within. The comforting repetition of multiple bent pages, belie a sculptural tactile beauty, mixed with the sadness of a book in obvious distress! Well worth it for the image? I'll let you decide that one. 

Then of course I couldn't talk about paper without mentioning Thomas Allen, whose work crosses over some of my own art practice (more about that in the future) using books to create diorama's from pulp fiction titles & old copies of books to great effect:

I thought this is another perfect example of his work, this time with a fitting Halloween feel...

And with that so to bed, more paper-chasing soon...