Friday, December 27, 2013

Between the dense and the distilled...

As I've been working on these recent collages, it's come to me that as an artist, my studio practice has frequently swung between highly detailed, dense works, and very minimal, materially sensitive, distilled pieces. With these collages, with their layers of printed imagery and cut paper, things feel like I'm currently in a dense stage.

Click on images for larger view.

It's interesting, because after spending months and months making pieces like this one, or this, or this, which are basically just paper, these collages come together in a matter of hours at most. (Although, if I counted all the time that led to the waste prints and paper that went into assembling the collage, it would be much, much longer). Of course, the paper portfolios are also editions, while the collages are unique works.

I think most artists who have made minimal work that is similar to my linked examples will agree that the precision required to work on something that is so exacting and simple is often as equally challenging to produce as something complex and highly detailed. There's just no wiggle room.

However, I find myself wondering what these divergent methods mean to my overall practice. I keep coming back to the concept of distilling when I think of the paper portfolios - I had clarified my vision and ideas down to a material essence and process. Simultaneously, it's a challenge to myself - how good are my skills? (how much can I show off?) Completing such work honors the medium and its potential.

These collages are more ambiguous - multiple nonlinear narratives colliding, a burgeoning lexicon of imagery.

Right now, after all those months of meticulousness, getting to use all that lovely paper that Jerarde gave me last year, to layer, to delight in my love of pattern, it's a release to embrace complexity. It feels like an indulgence.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Studio is operational!!

At least for printmaking. Papermaking set-up still in process. I'm actually working in the space, so that's a good sign. So far, all I've finished is the holiday present above, a woodblock portrait of my wonderful little niece Olivia. But it's a start.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hamadawashi at Kala

Back in October, during the frenzy leading up to my move, I attended a talk and demonstration at Kala by some Japanese master papermakers - Hiranao and Osamu Hamada (pictured above). Hamadawashi Mill is known for the paper Tosa Tengucho - "Wing of the Mayfly," - handmade paper that has the distinction of being the thinnest in the world. Osamu, who apprenticed at Mino Washi, is a master of rakusui (lace paper).

Some of the talk focused on young artisans like themselves, who are choosing to take up skills such as papermaking in a modern world. They compared traditional papermakers to ghosts, saying that many printmakers never see them.

Two points in particular resonated with me - the first being the farmers and growers of kozo are just as essential as the papermakers.

The second point was that papermaking is more than just a skill set, it's a feeling from inside. Hiranao compared it to cooking, or more accurately, the desire to make delicious food.

Which made me wonder - the desire to make delicious food, for me, is about more than eating. It's about sharing. And I wonder, to them, is papermaking also about sharing? The idea that one makes a sheet, which is then transformed by another? The act of papermaking is then realized as a continuum and community act.

I think my favorite question after their talk was from someone who asked, "How long did it take to get your mastery?" to which they simply replied, "Three years." (I think the audience was expecting them to say most of their lifetimes, although when I mentioned this to Don, he just answered that it used to be seven, but they've reduced it so as not to drive young interested people away).

Following the talk was a nagashizuki demo.

Papermaking is indeed a community act, although I will argue that the community is much more extensive than those who just go on to use the paper. Cellulose, as Don likes to say, is a polymer made up of strings of grape sugar molecules, one of the most plentiful polymers on the planet. To make paper is to be interconnected to a myriad of histories, processes, art forms and sciences.