Paper by any other name

Paper-based art continues to flourish, as is evident from the “Paper Creatures” exhibition, which opened at the Jaffa Museum last Friday and is due to run until October 29.

Cierbol: Artwork and photo by Victor Couerjoly (photo credit: VICTOR COUERJOLY)
Cierbol: Artwork and photo by Victor Couerjoly
(photo credit: VICTOR COUERJOLY)
Not so long ago, it seems, many had promised us a paperless world. With the advent and rapid evolving of email and other forms of digital communication, the assumption was that we would manage perfectly well with nonprint forms of information.
We now know that nothing could be further from the truth, with banks, for example, printing out proof of deposits and of checkbook orders by the thousands.
Thankfully, paper-based art continues to flourish too, as is evident from the “Paper Creatures” exhibition, which opened at the Jaffa Museum last Friday and is due to run until October 29.
The show features works by a stellar international cast of 32 artists, including exhibitors from Spain, Portugal, the United States, Ireland, Russia, Japan, France and Vietnam, as well as some impressive contributions from this part of the world. The works come from several paper-based disciplines, including origami, paper cuts, quilling, collage, paper sculpture and pop-up.
Mr. Bug: Artwork and photo by Joao Charrua (photo credit: JOAO CHARRUA)Mr. Bug: Artwork and photo by Joao Charrua (photo credit: JOAO CHARRUA)
The exhibition is curated by Ilan Garibi, who admits to a lifelong fascination both with paper and with mythical creatures.
“I was five years old when I heard some older kids talking about a monster called Godzilla,” he recalls. “It was about Japan and a huge creature the size of a building which swallowed up people, cars and buildings, whole cities.” It left an immediate disturbing mark on the infant, and an enduring impression.
“That night I couldn’t sleep, because I was having nightmares,” Garibi continues. “I didn’t realize they were talking about a movie. I thought it was real. But I have been fascinated with creatures ever since then, and I wanted this exhibition to be about creatures made of paper – but not real animals. Creatures are the result of creation, and in that respect everything is a creature. But for this exhibition, I looked for creatures that are not made by the hands of God. I wanted man-made ones, the ones that live and exist in the land of imagination, in our heads.”
The items on display at the Jaffa Museum clearly reflect the machinations of fertile imaginations, and draw on a wide range of cultural and historical baggage, too. A fetching figure contributed by American physicist and world-renowned origami artist and theorist Robert J. Lang, for example, alludes to an ancient civilization from this neck of the woods.
“This is an Assyrian creature, and the text is from the Koran,” explains Garibi. The origami work was made from paper covered with writing.
“Robert Lang wanted to make a statement with the excerpt he chose for this work. ‘It has the body of a bull, the wings of an eagle and the head of a man,’” Garibi quotes from Lang’s accompanying note. “‘It was depicted in art, and in temples, and on several ancient sculptures that exist to the present day.’” It soon becomes apparent that all the exhibitors are particularly dedicated to their craft. That, of course, can be said about any artist. But when you get up close to the works, you begin to appreciate the amount of effort and deftness of hand that have gone into producing artifacts of almost dizzying intricacy.
The whole array takes on an even imposing impact.
Mutation Waltz Step 3: Artwork and photo by Mayuko Fujino (photo credit: MAYUKO FUJINO)Mutation Waltz Step 3: Artwork and photo by Mayuko Fujino (photo credit: MAYUKO FUJINO)
Garibi’s curatorial purpose was also blessed with a delightful presentation domain. The exhibition area on the upper level of the old Arab building comprises aesthetic arches and walls, in pristine white, with the heavy support pillars serving to almost imperceptibly partition off the museum space, while still leaving one with a sense of an impeded view.
The curator has made good use of the niche-like spots, between the arch support, as well as of the outer and inner walls.
There is attention to detail, bordering on the unreasonable, everywhere you look in “Paper Creatures,” not least in the items sent in by France-based Indian paper-cut artist Suhail Shaikh. His work, Carapace, for example, boggles the mind in terms of the endeavor that must have gone into creating the double-layered skeletal structure. You can almost see his fingers locked into the small scissor handles as he carefully cut his way through the sheets of thick paper. “He’s crazy,” says Garibi with a chuckle, “and he’s not the only one.”
Shaikh has an outside-the-box ethos.
“Suhail is a paper cutter and he works in 3D, which is pretty rare,” Garibi observes. “Most paper cuts are flat.”
Carapace is certainly not two-dimensional and offers a multitude of angles and layers to be examined and enjoyed by the spectator. Shaikh, as mentioned previously, is an expat Indian, and there are several artists in the show who feed off cross-cultural inspiration.
The paper-cut sector of “Paper Creatures” also includes four works by American-born artist Patrick Gannon, who is a long-term resident of Japan.
Truth be told, if you did not happen to catch the card on the wall with the artist’s name you would be certain that the creator in question is Japanese born and bred. It is difficult to discern any Western elements or nuances in Gannon’s work, and his attention to detail is clearly fueled by the spirit of his adopted cultural milieu.
On the opposite wall facing Gannon’s works the visitor can view a triptych by Japan-born US-resident Mayuko Fujino. While, on the whole, the base form – there is at least one dragon in there – is Eastern, the colors that underlie the intervals cut into the paper appear to be more of a Western nature. Fujino’s main name for the three-part work is Waltz – a definitively Western dance style – but there are numerous cultural references in the amalgams she produced.
And if it’s delicacy and finesse you’re looking for, look no further than the subtle items made by Spaniard origami artist Victor Couerjoly. His works appear to defy logic and gravity. His work Menelao, for example, looks to be impossibly slender, but somehow its long spindly legs maintain their balance, while Ciérbol looks like a centaur with tree-like antlers. Couerjoly has twisted and sculpted the raw material (brown paper) to produce a rich multi-layered effect. Couerjoly’s Portuguese counterpart, João Charrua, has contributed three works presenting the visitor with entertaining mythological creatures, each ingeniously produced from a single sheet of paper.
On the homegrown side, there are three enchanting quilling works by Sari Wurtman, while Eyal Reuveni, Yinon Toledano and Liav Koram have contributed impressive folding items. And if your childhood reading material exposed you to the charm of pop-up books, you will be delighted with the items created by American artists Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda.
“Pop-up is a truly magical process,” says Garibi.
“From total flatness, a shape rises with a single movement of the hand. This medium tells a story, creates interaction with the viewer and brings him into the author’s reality just by a turn of a page.”
“Paper Creatures” is a fascinating event tailored to bring the visitor into the any exhibitor’s reality with even the briefest of glimpses.
For more information: