"On Paper" Exhibition
Another wet and chilly Sunday afternoon: what better than to buckle down and write about my visit to the "On Paper!" Exhibition in London that I visited on 4th July.
The weather on 4th July was very different from today. Just for a short time, an anticyclone sometimes comes to Britain, the winds veer to the south and for a few days the weather becomes more like the kind they have by the Mediterranean. London was hot and people were enjoying the open spaces of the city in an unaccustomed manner.
The exhibition had originated with an idea of Paul Jackson's and I had arranged to meet Paul and his new wife Miri Golan at Waterloo Station. We met precisely on time. We took the walkway though to the South bank of the Thames and caught up with our news at the self service restaurant beneath the Festival Hall. From there we ambled along the walk beside the Thames, past the National Theatre and under the shade of avenue of trees that had grown much taller than when I was last there. We visited Gabriel's Wharf, a collection of small craft shops that has somehow escaped being swallowed up in the large developments until we eventually reached the new Tate Modern Gallery, where we eschewed the artistic delights on offer and took the lift to the restaurant on the top floor where we took a table overlooking the Thames for tea. This is a splendid new vantage point overlooking the City of London across the Thames to the north. The view is dominated by the majesty of St. Paul's Cathedral which looks unbelievably close.
We continued our stroll past the still sparkling white Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and plunged down the narrow streets past the sinister Clink Museum exhibition which commemorates the notorious prison of that name, past the tiny, but full-sized replica of the Golden Hinde floating in its own dock and past Southwark Cathedral coming eventually to London Bridge Underground station. We were aiming to reach the galleries of the Craft Council at 6 o'clock, when the "On Paper " Exhibition was due to be opened. From London Bridge we could take the tube direct to the Angel in Islington, to the north east of central London, from which it is only a short walk to the Crafts Council. Thanks to Paul's knowledge of London we timed our arrival just a few minutes before the exhibition opened, when people were gathering in the foyer and on the front terrace.
Entering the foyer, we were surprised to meet but Mrs. Tamiko Kikugawa who is Mr. Yoshizawa's sister-in-law. It was she who had met me at Osaka airport when I visited Japan last year. Knowing that Mr. Yoshizawa had sent exhibits to the exhibition, I half expected him to emerge from behind a pillar, but this was not to be. With Mrs. Kikugawa was Mrs. Fume Chapman, who lives in England, but whom we had not seen for many years. When Mr. Yoshizawa attended the convention of the British Origami Society at the Cobden Hotel in Birmingham in October, 1983, Fumi had acted as his interpreter.
As we were chatting together the exhibition opened and the gallery was already filling when we entered. The first exhibit that confronted us was the display of paper clothing and shoes by Charlie Thomas whose creations had been chosen to appear on all the invitations and brochures and the catalogue relating to the exhibition. I couldn't help thinking that it was all somewhat stilted and I wondered why it had been featured so prominently. I could only compare it unfavourably with the wonderful real wearable paper clothing made by the Japanese. Almost immediately we met David Cohen, a London member of the British Origami Society, who had previously written about exhibitions of the Crafts Council for British Origami. He was standing beside a huge sculpture reaching to the ceiling which appeared to represent two leaves. I thought that it was a relic from a previous exhibition and discreetly tapped it. It sounded like metal to me. However, when I later obtained the Catalogue I found it was made from paper and fibreglass and was by a Finnish sculptor, Kaarina Kaikkonen Then I saw a full-sized white ruched paper coat or cloak suitable for a bride to wear by Kei Ito. So the parameters of the exhibition had clearly been set very wide and included more than ordinary household paper. The catalogue was divided into four sections: 1. Text and message, 2. New folding. 3. Cut and constructed and 4. Nature and spirit, but the exhibits themselves were not grouped along these lines and, in actuality, it was difficult to see how these classifications were applied to the exhibits. I can do no more here than pick out a few of the exhibits that particularly caught my eye
On the one hand there were sculpted jars made from papier mâché that could have been turned on the wheel. Contrasted with this were book-like constructions made by folding resembling the old recreation of "magazine folding" where each page is folded in a similar way to give a fan-like pattern to the whole. There were also box-like structures reminiscent of packaging designs, long snake-like zigzags of interlocked papers. I was attracted to and interlocked and stitched snake by Penny Burnfield with the cryptic title "I want to be alone". Although not origami, the note by Penny Burnfield in the Catalogue read: "I am intrigued by the process of making - in three dimensional geometry and the putting together of flat shapes to make something that is far more then the sum of the parts". That will find an echo in every paperfolder.
I was also attracted to a more delicate feather-like construction of strands of cut paper to form a kind of lei to hand down a lady's back by Alison Wilson-Hart, named "Backpiece, 2000".
The sheer variety of approaches to the use of paper creatively makes I difficult to categorise the contributions. The room t the front was connected to a larger room at the back and it was here that he origami creations were on display. Paul Jackson's ell-known cross-pleated bowls made a transition between the more sculptural exhibits and those of pure origami. It was while I was studying the exhibits here that I caught sight of David Brill, accompanied by Steve Brown, another London member of the BOS. From time-to-time I revisited the origami "corner" and there always seemed to be a small group of paperfolders congregating there. Once more we chatted to Mrs Kikugawa and Mrs, Fumi Chpman and we all posed for each other to take photographs. I found that there was no objection to photography, provided it was for personal use.
Compared with the exhibition of his works that I saw in Kyoto last year there were necessarily only few of Yoshizawa's works on display. They included the successive models of his "Tumbling Man". Each of the figures by itself is a good representation of the human figure, but seen together in sequence, the five models achieve a remarkable liveliness of movement. Examined more closely, one has to admire the skill with which Yoshizawa has balanced each figure in the midst of its acrobatic pose. Familiar figures were two of Yoshizawa's graceful swans, which he taught us when he first visited the BOS in 1971 and two variants of his awesome gorilla. The masterpeice of his work on show was Romulus and Remus being suckled by the wolf, copied from the famous statue on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. Looked at again, one is amazed by the sheer economy of folding of the wolf and the lifelike figures of Romulus and Remus as babies. On the wall opposite were three of Yoshizawa's masks: a ferocious knight, a fierce devil called Hannya and his famous Buddha
Looking back on the exhibition, Yoshizawa's contribution represented the naturalistic approach to paper sculpture in contrast to the abstractions of most of the exhibition. Indeed, most of the other origami exhibits were themselves abstract.
It was much to my regret that there was no masks by Eric Joisel in the exhibition, although his hedgehog is illustrated in the catalogue. His masks would have stood out in the company and would have been an instructive comparison with Yoshizawa's masks. Nor was there anything by David Brill. Not only is he a very creative paperfolding, but he is also a superlative paperfolder and the addition of his work would have strengthened the origami section.
Nearby, however, there were several boxes and polyhedra by Tomoko Fuse. Curiously enough, her creations were akin to some of the geometrical and abstract constructions of other parts of the exhibition, but her inventiveness in her own geometrical kind of paperfolding and her immaculate precision impressed, even in an exhibition where art took precedence over the particular techniques employed.
On the walls at the back were displayed two of Jean-Claude Correia's mural hangings. Correia's technique was the inspiration for Eric Joisel's magnificent Pangolin, but Correia himself uses these large-scale essays in complex pleating in an abstract way. His "Pliage Rouge, Fevrier, 1998" was displayed as a kind of vertical red ladder. On the other hand, his "Blue Horizon, 1997" formed a long horizontal piece with a "horizon" of pleats in a different texture of folding drifting from the lower left to the upper right. Correia uses origami techniques, even though h declines to classify his work as origami. The effect of his folding is abstract art, which is akin to some of the other textured folding in the exhibition which make no pretence of being what origamists call paperfolding. For instance, in her "Paper Wrap" Carol Andrews uses n origami technique to fold a large drapery of white paper into the semblance of the overlapping feathers of a peacock's tail.
The past few years have seen a burgeoning of creative paperfolding in France. Correia and Joisel have been mentioned but another Frenchman whose work has increasingly been drawing attention is Vincent Floderer. While his work may seem to be more akin to crumpling, his origins are very much in the origami tradition. He is perhaps best known for his extraordinary mushrooms, folded from common French butchers' paper, but there were no mushrooms on display here. His recent work has diverged into a wonderful variety of imaginative organic forms, including stark, leafless tree-like forms and convoluted brain-like corals. Here there was a collection of his creations shown framed on the wall, but with three-dimensional depth. They defy description, but can, perhaps best be compared to spiky encrustations of crystal and clusters of limpet shells. In contrast there was a true origami group of twin-tailed fantasy creatures, perhaps best described as a cross between insects and amphibians.
Even looking at paper crafts can be exhausting so David Brill, Steve Brown and I made our way upstairs to the library, where white wine was being dispensed very liberally. I noticed that there was a table with several computer and had there been more time it would have been possible to explore the background to the exhibition in greater depth. Drinks were, very sensibly, not allowed in the exhibition galleries, so we drank up and returned to look again at the exhibits. I studied in admiration a great column of woven white washi paper like a delicate white fishing net, suspended from the ceiling in the second gallery and lit by white light from within. It was by Kyoko Ibe and was titled "White Wind, 1992".
Humorous three-dimensional collage characterised the work of Paul Johnson, who is known for his pop-ups, while Lisa Walpole contributed several models constructed by weaving together discarded paper and cartons, using colour to great effect. They ranged from a simple, useful basket to an unnamed mural, being an octopus-like creature with countless tentacles. Very much in contrast was the starkly simple rectangular mural creations of Brian Robinson where the emphasis was on the texture of the creased white paper.
I could go on, but words cannot adequately describe the diverse richnesses and the contrasts of the exhibition. For anyone who cannot visit the exhibition, the 128 page catalogue measuring 22 X 28 cm. is a partial consolation. It is called "On Paper, New Paper Art" and is by Jane Thomas and Paul Jackson and is a worthy companion to "Origamido" by Michael Lafosse and Paul Jackson's own "Encyclopaedia of Origami and Papercraft Techniques". It has numerous illustrations in full colour and can be obtained from the Crafts Council Headquarters or from the publishers, Merrell Publishers, Ltd., 42, Southwark Street, London SE1 1UN. (www.merrellpublishers.com). The British Origami Society is enquiring whether they can arrange to obtain copies to be sold through BOS Supplies or through Bookends. The Crafts Council Centre has a shop of its own which sells all sorts of craftwork and also books. In view of the recent discussion of paperclay in Origami-L, I was pleased to find a copy of a compact book called "Paper Clay" by Rosette Gault.
At 8 o'clock, the attendants gently began to usher us out of the exhibition, but many stayed chatting in the foyer and on the terrace outside, still basking in the unusual warmth of the heat wave. We said our goodbyes to Mrs.Kikugawa and all the other friends we had met. Paul and Miri had to hurry to the station to catch a train back to Coventry where they are staying with Paul's mother. We were very grateful to Paul for arranging for us to be invited to the opening of the exhibition. David Brill, Steve Brown and I wandered round the corner to a wine bar where we rested our now weary legs and refreshed ourselves with food and drink and plenty of talk.
We returned to the Angel tube station and went our separate ways. I felt it was too soon to return to my hotel and stayed on the tube to Covent Garden. Outside the station two girls, obviously from on of the capital's music colleges played classical music on violin and viola with astonishing competence. A little further along youngsters were jiving to the sound or a rock guitarist, all in the shadow of the Royal Opera House. Such is the mixture of life. It reminded me of the contrasts I had seen at the "With Paper Exhibition. I sat down at a table and ordered a coffee, taking in the lively scene. Covent Garden was especially magical in the warmth of the summer night and it was only with reluctance that I eventually retraced my steps back to the tube station and to my hotel.
David Lister 15th July, 2001.