If you think about the word ‘paper’ as only the everyday object it describes, more often than not, a simple enough image will come to mind - a blank, white page. For most of us, the only time this material is actually put to proper use in our urban, modern, and digitized lives is when we send or receive yawn-inducing official letters or collect bills and receipts.
A new exhibition at Tel Aviv’s Eretz Israel Museum seeks to challenge the dull and confining definition of paper, assigning to this, rather lackluster, object new and profound emotional meanings that make it anything but the carte blanche we mistakenly think it is.
The exhibition On the Edge - Israeli Paper brings together the art works of 65 different Israeli artists, graphic designers, jewelers, textile designers, architects, product designers, and paper artists, who have all lent their own perspective to this seemingly banal material.
Curator Anat Gatenio has given the artists free reign, allowing each of them to take their own creative journey with the material. The result is a diverse and almost overwhelmingly rich array of creations, each utilizing paper in its own way to express sentiments and statements, or to deliver a personal story.
Most artists chose to dissect, tear apart and closely examine paper as a medium as well as its different modes, relating to it not as a platform upon which text can be inscribed but rather as an exciting, raw material with the potential to undergo different processes.
Using a wide range of artistic expressions, the artists have experimented with paper - some attempted to render it transparent, some transformed it into large, attention-grabbing and three-dimensional displays and others cast a gentler light on the material, crafting smaller but no less impressive artworks.
Two vivid examples of the latter kind of experiments showcased in the exhibition were crafted by female Israeli artists. The first is artist Dina Bloom, who has manually labored on dozens of small, rolled-up paper spirals whose tips are painted gold. Placed on a table side by side, the spirals resemble a miniature architectural model, yet evoke the feeling of seeing a beloved but forgotten view up high from an airplane window. The second is artist Naama Oppenheim, whose hand-crafted display of paper sailboats swinging in the air brings to mind the tender memory of children’s mobiles or the kind of sailboats all of us learned to make in kindergarten experimentations with origami. Oppenheim’s work is especially moving because it offers an adult take on an infantile tradition, resonating with the exhibition’s overall themes of journeys, searches and exploration.
So for those of you who were under the impression that paper is an outdated material from a bygone era that will soon entirely disappear from our lives, a visit to the Eretz Israel Museum will convince you otherwise.
And for those who had faith in the magic of paper all along, Extreme Situations- Israeli Paper will provide a rare opportunity to re-examine the diverse material in an exhibition that merges between the two worlds of art and design.