Monday, 13 September 2010
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Paper Craft and Book Sculpture
Art is always evolving as are we, with that comes new and different approches to old materials. paper craft and book sculpture in particular is something I have become very interested in over the last few years,
The history of paper
paper derives from the word papyrus, papyrus is similar to paper as it is a medium created to write on and draw on but is created in a completely different way. Papyrus is made from the stem of the papyrus plant but it is sliced and pressed then joined together like a laminate.
Paper seems to have come from the need to store imformation. It is a way of storing and passing on imformation and is probably something that has helped the human race to intelectualy grow, as people can learn from a book instead of just from mouth to mouth. Paper has also helped to preserve. In drawings and photos it records the way things look as well as enabling the drawer to show his thoughts and visions to others.
Over the last few years I have noticed paper craft becoming more and more popular. This is as I am becoming more aware of this process. Another reason it is doing so well may be because people are becoming less rigid about art and more experimental and free with there choice of art and materials. I feel if people made the things they do today 300 years ago they may have been thought of as mad but in all kinds of art nowadays anything seems to go and no one bats an eyelid. Crazy and unconventional has become mainstream in the art world and seems to get more coverage by the media than classical types of art. Paper has been around for centuries and has been used in many different ways but now there seems to be new excitement and buzz around this material. From intricate paper cut pieces, and modern origami to surreal sculptures made from books, it really seems to be getting more and more popular and widely more accepted as art.
The Creative Process
There are different types of paper craft artist; some like Bovey Lee draw what they are going to cut first on the paper then cut out the intricate picture. Her work is created from developing drawings and creating a digital template then painstakingly cutting out all the pieces.
"Bovey’s paper cutout drawings seek to preserve, promote, and extend an ancient Chinese folk art through invention by adding personal and contemporary elements that have not been used in the traditional craft before. (http://www.artistaday.com/?p=3502)"
Some, however, like Chriss Naptrop cut their pieces free hand from their imagination, creating amazing installations with paper light and shadow.
"What actually influences my work is my direct surroundings." says Chris in an interview with art.blogging.la. He also said " I found LA to be a bit daunting at first, curiously disparate and seemingly disconnected. I wasn't used to driving everywhere, so I felt kind of disoriented. This overall perception found its way into the work. Different forms and structures began to emerge. I felt like I was finding the hidden essence to LA, a hidden substructure of peculiar relationships. I love how plant-life infiltrates and interacts with the city. How vines crawl up and descend from highways and overpasses. How towering weeds and grasses push themselves from the concrete, overtaking the hardened terrain. (http://www.casasugar.com/Artist-Spotlight-Chris-Natrop-807956).
You can see this in his huge paper pieces of paper cut plant life, which almost looks like they and thier shadows are growing up the wall. His use of light adds another dimension to his work creating different colours and contrast to the overall look.
Altered book art is a type of sculpture. I personally like to call it book sculpture but some people call it altered books and others call it folded books. These terms all bring up similar results when you’re trying to find images on Google image search. This type of art is obviously paper craft but the artists have moved on from or bypassed plain sheets of paper and for some reason are drawn to books which has certain boundaries such as size strength and the text or pictures. I think this is one of the reasons they like it because of the fact that it is an object already but they are turning it in to something new and different. I also see it myself as a challenge to change a flat book in to a 3D piece of aesthetic art although sometimes its not just about the aesthetic. I also like the novelty of art pieces made from everyday recognisable objects.
I find some people have a huge problem with cutting up books, At first I hadn't considered this point of view. Actually thinking about it, it is very difficult to choose the right book and one of the reasons is that I also don't like the thought of cutting up certain books. It isn't a problem with books in general but more to do with a memory or emotion attached to a specific book such as childhood storybooks. I could cut up a copy of a storybook book but not the specific book I had as a child as that book has a direct link to my childhood and feels really precious. Like old books I find in junk shops and recycling centres some are so beautiful that I feel like it would be wrong in some way to start cutting them up, so I leave them for someone else. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so precious about them and think it would be interesting to work with other books and see if i can get past the way I see them. I normally go for more run of the mill mass produced classics like Shakespeare and dictionaries. I love the thought of cutting up work such as Shakespeare because I feel the education system tries to automaticaly program us in to the thinking that Shakespeare is a god of the written word. I don't disrespect his work but the way he is championed and forced upon us throughout our English classes in school. As I struggeled with my writing and punctuation, I resented a lot about my English classes at school.
On the other hand, I like the thought of using Shakespeare because his work is so mass produced, which means i'm probably not cutting up a rare book. In addition to this I see that his stories have romantic themes that are particularly striking and effective when altered. Also I like words and I like the thought of using words which are from stories that everyone knows so that they can identify with the story and know the story of the book once it is no longer readable. I almost feel like cutting it up your getting inside the story manually exploring the pages and delving into the magic of the words.
The creative process
First thing for me is choosing a book. This is important, whether it’s purely aesthetic or if it’s for philosophical reasons (which I will go in to more deeply later). When you have chosen your book you rip, cut, fold, scrunch, dye, burn or alter to create your sculpture. Some artists end up with something which still resembles a book or can be recognised as a book and some people change it so much that it is not recognisable as a book in any way.
Either way you end up with your art work. I love the fact paper can be used in so many ways; it can be made stronger by adding products like glue or lacquer, which also gives it varying degrees of water resistance. This can also change the appearance by making it shiny or/and creating see through. Layers of paper can also be glued or clipped together to create strength and durability. It can be printed painted or drawn on to add pattern or scrunched up to add texture, it can be used flat or folded, crumpled or glued to add shape and form. It is also easily cut or ripped to distort so is a really interesting material to work with as there are infinite ways of using it.
Why paper and books ?
Artist’s motivations aren't all the same so I’ll start with why I use paper and books which is a difficult question, as, I would say it just happened. Maybe this is because I haven't consciously thought about the reason why. As an artist I tend to just do, like a state of trance, I like to just create for the sake of creating but I suppose there must be a reason why I am so drawn to paper and books and have been drawn back to them time and time again. As I think about it there are many reasons that I could say have made me more and more inquisitive about the art of paper craft and altering books.
Before even altering a book, a book is a lovely object, although I’m not clear on why, I would say maybe this is a subconscious feeling and the actual reason is because a book holds a story and memories. A book is a magical thing, to look at a page of text at a glance gives no clue about its content, but to read the words brings a story to life, it opens your imagination’s floodgates and creates an invisible world in your mind which only you can see. Although a story can be shared, the way you imagine it, is unique and personal so feels very special. It could also be because of whom it is that has read a story to you like a parent or loved one. When I look at books from my childhood it is like a time machine transporting me back to when I was young and how it felt to listen to the story as a child listening to my parent’s voice. I remember the only important thing then was the story that was being told with absolutely nothing else to worry about apart from falling to sleep afterwards. So I personally connect books with a feeling of safety and protection.
Also as a child I owned a theatre which came as a book and I cut it out to create the theatre. I must have spent many hours using this paper theatre to create stories and in doing so stretch my imagination. Out of all the toys I owned this was my favourite. It was light and easy to use and easy for me or any other child using it to add their own imagination by creating their own characters to create their own story. This was also the same thing with paper dolls with the cut out dresses and hair I would spend hours making clothes of my own design to dress my precious paper doll. Although on a down side I have none left to show for this 20 years later and find this makes paper even more precious as it needs to be looked after if it is to last. It is not as robust as metal, stone or even cloth so does not always stand the test of time.
Another reason for liking books is the mass producton and the repetitiveness of the pages. I enjoy the methodical process of folding, It is almost like meditation which I find relaxing and one of the very few times in which I am not thinking about anything. It almost like being in a trance like state which I find is a rare thing to achieve, in my mind as an artist which is normally trying to think of what and how to create whilst realizing there is never enough time to do it all.
Paper is something very familiar from childhood as I used to make things from it a lot. As a child it was easy to obtain and a plain base for the imagination so you could say what I’m doing now with paper is just the same but with 20 odd years experience. Other artists such as Brian Dettimer, a well know artist who works largely with books says:
piece by Brian Dettimer
"What the books are about is very important to me but I am also drawn to them for all of the aesthetic and tactile reasons. The content is important because all of the images and text I expose are from the actual book and that guides the approach and result of the piece. The title is important as well. The book title often becomes the title of my piece and sometimes its meaning expands because of the work I do to it."(email correspondence with Brian Dettimer)
Brian's work is extremely visual he has the skill of a surgeon with a scalpel. He pushes forward creating visually stunning, intricate work that is mind blowing and must have taken hundreds of hours to achieve.
He carves into books with an X-acto knife and peels away the layers to show the images that were hidden between the layers. His work reminds me of anatomical models that show the different layers under the skin but instead he is showing the makings of the book.
Then there is jewellery artist Liz Hamman who uses paper in a different way. She is very experimental and makes paper jewellery largely out of books. She has made some really unusual bracelets from layered pages of childhood story books. Also some pieces by layering flat circles of pages together to make beautiful strings of paper necklaces using different coloured books and plain books for different effects. Her work also involves painstaking attention to detail and effort and great patience. Again a recurring theme, you can see in her work as in other book artists a passion and love for the experimental forward thinking in the work they do.
One of the things I love about this kind of art, which I’m sure is the case with other art, but I notice it and am aware of it more with book art is that the artists really strive to experiment and push to create new places. They don’t seem to want to just imitate each other but rather make themselves aware of techniques and try and push them to create something new and unseen before. Maybe this is why I find it so exciting and inspirational? I feel artists are like philosophers, always thinking about things and working things out. I have been under the genral assumption that a majority of non-artistic based people think of artists as wasteful with their time, maybe even lazy or stupid. On the contrary, I belive artists are people doing a lot of the thinking. I believe art in some ways is a release for the over active mind that is full of ideas not necessarally connected but streaming thoughts of continous eventualities opportunities and changing endings . It is a way of experimenting and understanding the world we live in. It is like an abstract form of writing, using images colours and shapes in the way a writer uses words or a musician uses notes, chords and volume to do a similar thing.
From my research I have found that craft, including paper craft has always been popular. As the human need to create has been obvious since early man drew on caves. Whether its to communicate knowledge, feelings or to create a sense of emotion; it is in us all to create and express ourselves through music, fashion ,art or writing, we just have an urge to do it.
Now looking at modern communication and the future, cutting up books can be seen as a representation of the change we view the written word. We have moved from a traditional progression through text from start to finish, to a post-modern, multimedia world of hyperlinks and interactivity with text. The reader no longer plays a passive role but shapes text by creating and altering blogs and websites.
Similarly in the world of music, rather than listening to an album from start to finish, people are more likely to purchase single MP3s and compile their own mixes. Remixing and sampling previously recorded music adds to the idea of altering text and creating something new from it.
It seems paper has always been used as a medium for art but has only recently become more extravagant and experimental along with all other art forms and mediums as the view on art has been more open too the strange and more experimental. The artists have felt the freedom to be more expressive. I feel that if artists make their work to be aesthetic or if it's conceptual there is always a concious or sub-concious reason for the materials that are used. The artist might not know exactly what it is that makes them choose it, scratch the surface of the artists mind just like the pages of a book and you start to see the layers of reasons for the choice. I also think they all have different reasons for their choice even if they choose the same material in this example books.
It depends on the viewer how they see this type of work and really all types of art. Some people are drawn in by the concept and some by the aesthetic and some by both. I feel most people I have spoken to about this type of art have first been drawn in by the aesthetic but later on are drawn deeper into the conceptual meanings depending upon the level they chose to enjoy the art.
I started by just simply folding book
I became really interested in photographing the folded books that this became part of the reason for fold. To make aesthetic pieces that were visually interesting to photograph
whilst taking the photos of the work i started to think a lot about the visuals of the ends of rhe pieces. i love the organic shapes and patterns that were created and started to look in to slicein the books so i could make them in to wearable pieces
and then started experimenting with slicing books
and other experiments with paper
the book bird i designed on my HnD
i am really proud of these birds i get a really good response from most people about them and will enjoy carring on with the exsperimenting
to see more of my work please visit my web site