Tracing PAPER: Exhibition Review

Tracing PAPER at PAPER Gallery

Photo credit – PAPER Gallery, David Hancock

I do love it at Mirabel Studios (PS Mirabel, PAPER and Sloe Gallery), it is great to see so many artists working together, so many different talents and such a variety of work. The Tracing PAPER exhibition really does show that. Nine artists from the North West have taken part in the Tracing PAPER scheme, a 10 month programme where the artists are mentored, guided and supported in their development. This exhibition is a cumulation of the scheme, bringing it to an incredible end.

As you may know, I am a massive fan of Tina Dempsey‘s work. On display at PAPER you will find ‘White Mesh Pink Line.’ The colours in this piece are like a sweet, summery ice-lolly, it takes me back to my youth, spending holidays on the beach in Lanzarote. Pinks, oranges, peaches, placed on shades of turquoise and blue, these colours remind me of inflatable lilo’s, sparking on a shimmery pool. This may all be because the collage in questions includes (what I think is) an image of someones golden, glistening, tanned skin. As I am sure you have all witnessed, that Lanzarote weather has reached Manchester and seems to be sticking around. This, unfortunately, I think has affected Tina’s work. The paper used in the collage looked to be wilting in the ridiculous heat. Seeing the work like this, it didn’t look as nice and as crisp as it does on Tina’s Instagram. This takes nothing away from my appreciation of the work, just an unfortunate consequence of this amazing weather we are experiencing.

I hadn’t seen the work of Jack Brown before, but I understood his work straight away. Named ‘the grease mark left by a passenger’s hair on a bus window,’ I notice this all the time! I always wonder who it was who left the mark? How long has that grease stain been there? Is everyone’s hair that greasy? I now want to know how did Jack get this sample? Did he photograph it, or use paper to get an imprint of it? What bus was he on? What was the route? Did he see who left the mark? The work itself, although it is a digital print, looks like graphite pencil on paper. The marks are so small, so intricate, and they are accompanied by smudges and fingerprint marks. Are these Jack’s? Or were these also observed on the bus window? I have so many questions! This is another reason why I’m a big fan of PAPER Gallery and Mirabel Studios as a whole, the artist statements aren’t there, right in your face. You are left to review the work yourself and see it as you wish to. The statements may be there (in a printed sheet as they are in PAPER) or not at all (as they were in PS Mirabel – who also had a launch night last week, which I will review as soon as I can). So in my usual fashion I read the statement afterwards, which reads; ‘Jack is an artist whose work highlights sublime moments that would usually go unnoticed.’ Well Jack, I do notice these marks and am really happy that I’m not the only one!

We recently featured the work of Ruby Tingle who also has work here at PAPER. Her collage on paper work is almost morbid like. To me, this piece looked like something you’d find on a David Attenborough programme, it looked like the bones left behind after the animal flesh has been eaten. Named ‘Peeling Scutes’ this piece has an animal skin texture about it, like a peeling snake-skin. I just Googled Scute:

‘A thickened horny or bony plate on a turtle’s shell or on the back of a crocodile, stegosaurus, etc.’

Ruby ‘reconstructs familiar forms to present and document the extraordinary as authentic.’ I totally get that. The piece is otherworldly, surreal and delicate. It looks so fragile, like a gust of wind would turn the elements to dust. Even though the work is collage on paper, it looks almost 3D, you can see the curves, the shadows, the elements take on a 3D form.

Olivier Binnian is another artist working in collage (can you tell I am a fan of collages?) ‘Versions’ is a framed collage that looks like a summer day picnicking in the hills. The greens, blues, and flowers look like a meadow, and the hints of yellow could represent the sunshine. The image is hazy, like a heat wave rising over the land, blurring the view as it goes. The graphite lines collaged within the work, these are what I can’t place in my summer image. The sharp black and white lines, the scratchy texture, contrast against the sunny day look. Perhaps they are a gust of wind, that annoying wind that blows over your cups and spills your juice all over the blanket. Olivier ‘straddles the space between real and digital worlds…He harnesses the power of having instant connection to virtually anywhere in the world, where one sees everything but experience nothing.’ I think this would look better on a larger scale. Imagine this covering a whole wall, so you could really immerse yourself in that meadow, you can really see the sun glowing and feel the sense of the rising heatwaves. The actual collage is in a glass frame, and that feels like a barrier is between you and the work. Let it be free!

There more pieces on display here at PAPER including Iain Andrews, David Armes, Niki Colclough, William Hughes, Ruth Murray and David Penny, all using paper is their own and unique way. And with Sloe Gallery and PS Mirabel right next door, you should definitely check out their current exhibitions. I overheard people chatting about this Tracing PAPER scheme and there are rumours it may not happen again, or may do but later in the year (awaiting grants and funds – typically). I really hope it does happen again as I also heard a ton of people say they applied for the scheme, it would be a shame if these budding artists didn’t get a chance to be mentored too. I know that PAPER gives so many opportunities to artists that I really hope it doesn’t stop here. I truly enjoyed this exhibition and will be eagerly awaiting the next one.

Tracing PAPER is on at PAPER Gallery till 11th August.

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