Sharne Wolff makes amends for Xmas-past and discovers Pamela See’s paper cuts…
Over the last few years I’ve been rather pathetic at sending cards (or even an email) to friends at Christmas time. No matter how much of me wants to keep up the practice, I just never seem to find time once December is upon me. So, at the beginning of January this year wandering around the old quarter of Hanoi, I jumped on the opportunity to redeem myself and bought twenty ‘New Year’ cards from an overjoyed Vietnamese man in a tiny shop in the back streets of the capital.
Paper, 24×30 cm
The cards were beautifully made from textured paper and when opened the words ‘happy new year 2010’ cut from paper of various colours popped up as a surprise from the middle of the card. On return home, and without exception, a response of some kind was elicited from everyone who received a card. Friends loved them. So did their kids. There is a point to this little story somewhere and I’m trying to find it now… I think the paper in those cards carried emotions with the greeting that were intangible but incredibly powerful. Somehow the messages I’d sent were more truthfully received than if I’d sent them in a different way and the paper surprise was like a little gift.
More of these powerful messages carried through the medium of paper can be seen in ‘The Fold’, the latest exhibition by artist Pamela See at Andrew Baker Art Dealer in Brisbane. Apart from two stainless steel sculptures which are laser cut to scale from the designs of two smaller works in the show, all other works in the current exhibition are made from paper hand-cut by the artist. These are, however, no ordinary papercuts – they are highly original in form and created by a talented practitioner. Ms See’s CV already covers four pages of the exhibition catalogue and she has exhibited all over the world from New York to Beijing. She spent three years examining pieces of paper before starting work on the themes in this exhibition.
On entering the gallery the works make a spectacular display, especially with the gallery bathed in full sunlight, as it was on the day I was there. Mostly white on black or the reverse, the cut paper casts shadows on the background and along with texture in the paper, makes the two-dimensional paper forms float and dance behind the glass appearing three-dimensional.
From the top floor of the gallery (which gives a fabulous view of the Ferris wheel over at the Ekka), are some of my favorite pieces in the show.
A series of black and white paper forms along the back wall of the gallery hover on white backgrounds and jostle for space. These pieces are largely autobiographical for the artist who is currently pregnant with her baby ‘Mo’. The mystery and wonder of impending new life is evident in these works while the artist says in her statement that for her they ‘explore circumstance of interpersonal conflict’ The series creates a continuous narrative of the artist’s recent experience with titles such as “When They Discovered Her She Already Had a Heartbeat” and “They Didn’t Say It Was Because I Was Pregnant, They Just Said Perhaps I Should Sit That Job Out”.
My favorite pieces were a group of works created from black paper and set on white backgrounds, all taking their titles from Ms See’s personal history. These pieces are elegant in their simplicity but on closer inspection are covered with beautifully intricate designs. They take their abstract forms from the shapes of discarded wrapping paper once wrapped around gifts received by the artist and her family. With titles such as “Fashionable CD from His Brothers Partner, Christmas, 2009” and “Placemats from His Mother, Christmas 2008” it is incredible how emotive these pieces are. They conjure up memories of times with family and friends and those scenes of surprise, joy, excitement and perhaps even horror that are universal in nature.
Who would have thought the simplicity and ordinariness of the humble piece of paper could be worked in such beautiful and mysterious ways to convey such powerful meaning?
I was amazed to discover after visiting this show that there are thirty framed works in the show which fill all spaces in the gallery. The works are of varying sizes with none overly large. Most works were completed in 2010 although several, including the stunning steel sculptures, were completed in 2007.
I figured that being right next door to the Ekka grounds Andrew Baker would be hoping for lots of visitors to this show as it coincides with Ekka week – with both shows closing on 14 August. Apparently not! He says he usually gets around three extra people through the door during that week. I hope for the artist’s sake the record of three could be broken in 2010.
(For those who may be wondering, the Ekka (or ‘exhibition’) is the nickname given to the Royal Brisbane Show).
Pamela See: The Fold
Andrew Baker Art Dealer
To 14 August, 2010