In times of financial uncertainty artists are returning to one of our most readily available mediums – paper. By Antonia Charlesworth
“It never ceases to amaze me what artists can create from something so humble,” says Natasha Howes, curator of The Forest of Possibility – a journey into the intricate world of paper that opened at Grimsby’s Abbey Walk Gallery last month.
The exhibition features 2D paper cuts, sculpture and animation from seven artists from around the globe who all use paper as their medium. Howes says more and more artists are returning to this ancient craft in this time of financial uncertainty.
“Paper is cheap and easily available and cutting paper only needs a scalpel – not expensive equipment or a large space.”
Paper cuts have become a staple of the growing number of craft fairs, with personalised pieces offering big profit margins for makers. Howes hopes that people who may have seen this kind of work will be interested to see the exhibition and discover the different aspects of this fascinating form.
The Forest of Possibility is part of Art Unpacked, a series of exhibitions from Chrysalis Arts that take the best of contemporary art to a network of small and unique galleries across East Lancashire and the Yorkshire coast. It aims to develop a wider audience for visual arts by showcasing new and innovative work in areas where people have limited access to them. The Forest of Possibility is the third exhibition in the series and Howes, a curator at Manchester Art Gallery, became involved because of her experience in a similar exhibition, The First Cut.
Mastrovito has created a small colourful garden of plants cut from a catalogue of seeds and plants, and plays with reality and artifice
“I enjoyed the experience so much I was keen to revisit paper again but with a new theme and some new artists,” she says.
When she began her research Howes became inspired by the theme of the forest. The artworks created as a result hint at the cyclical relationship between trees and knowledge through the production of paper and books.
“Forests are a place to explore, to think, to encounter wildlife or to escape from life’s challenges – but they can also be a place of fear and peril, full of untamed branches, sinister shadows and silence. It is still a place full of potential and possibility,” says Howes.
The artists have each interpreted the forest. James Aldridge’s graphic black paper cuts show the more sinister side, with wolves, crows, thorns and references to folklore. Andrea Mastrovito has created a small colourful garden of plants cut from a catalogue of seeds and plants, and plays with reality and artifice. It is a smaller version of the Italian artist’s previous work – a dizzying installation using thousands of cut images from books to create a swarm of colourful plants and animals in galleries in New York and Switzerland.
London-based artist Justine Smith has created two new sculptures that look like ferns and a dandelion plant under Victorian-style glass domes but her work is anything but inexpensive to create – the paper she chooses to work with is money.
While Smith has exhibited her work worldwide, at the other end of the spectrum is Clare Skill, a newly graduated artist who Howes discovered during her research and who she has since supported in creating a new 3D work based on her memories of being in a forest.
Also exhibiting is Claire Brewster, whose birds are resident in forests, but hers are created from cut vintage maps, symbolising the journeys they take.
Davy and Kristin Maguire are an award-winning partnership who bring paper to life in their magical artworks comprising paper cutting, animation, projection and performance. They have created a magical animation, telling the poetic story of a girl in a forest.
Finally, Berlin-based Charlotte McGowan-Griffin uses the traditional technique of watermarking paper and her images of trees and geometric patterns are revealed when light shines through them.
The Forest of Possibility – Journey into an Intricate World of Paper is at Abbey Walk Gallery, Grimsby 7 Jan-14 Feb, then touring