At high school I had a design teacher who was dreadfully strict. If she caught you yawning she made you run up and down stairs and round the block and would time you to make sure you didn’t slack. She also hated anyone to make a mess on their work. Very high standards. Which you might expect. I, of course, was doomed in her class and so it was that she hated my stuff, partly because I didn’t take the time and care needed to do a really precise job. I’m more of a ‘peel the glue off your fingers’ kind of gal.
Anyway, I was reminded of her (though not her name – possibly Mrs Wright?) while visiting The First Cut this weekend. The First Cut is the latest exhibition at Djanogly Gallery at Lakeside Arts. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of paper. The exhibition features 30 artists who’ve cut, twisted, fiddled and sculpted it into all sorts of splendidness.
It impresses on a number of ways. The first is: “blimey, how on earth did they have the patience to do that?” Or, more accurately, “how did they do it without tearing it?” (or getting dirty glue prints on it). And of course, it also impresses because it’s so large, so eye catching and yet so fragile. Rip it down in a second, you could, all those hours of work. Terrifying when yo think about it. No wonder the gallery assistants were so keen.
The exhibition is mainly new or recent work and features several new commissions, including a lovely three foot long one by well known paper artist Rob Ryan. All kinds of paper is featured – from old books and manuscripts to glossy magazines to money to maps and much more.
The opening room of the exhibition has some of the larger pieces in it – the Ryan, as well as Andrew Singleton’s spectacular Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula inspired by the Hubble telescope, and Andrea Mastorito’s EXODUS 8:13 featuring a plague of frogs in a lovely flower garden. The back room is completely devoted to Manabu Hanga’s Wonder Forest, a fantastical display of trees and flowers suspended by almost invisible threads. The child in you wants to skip through them but the adult in you thinks “Good grief no, what if I break something!”
The smaller bunker type room at Djanogly contained The Harbingers by Claire Brewster, a flock of paper birds made from maps, to represent migration patterns – a lovely shot of colour across the wall, while elsewhere Chris Kerry’s Cultural Instructions included’Be some kind of techno-sex nutcase’ and ‘Join The Fall.’ I feel I’ve failed here. (Though if I’m honest, I don’t really like The Fall.)
This room has a wider range of pieces in it – I liked the pieces made from old books and Violise Lunn’s frilly delicate paper shoes were definitely the kind of thing I would have ruined with my clumsy fingers. But my favourite piece was back in the first room – Beatrice Coron’s Chaos City represented a metropolis leaning in on itself, each window a shot of someone’s life suggesting to me that we should examine the urban lifestyle and whether we really can sustain these cramped conditions. But the range of situations each window depicted also makes me think that some of us have managed to find joy and connection despite living like this. The people were eating dinner, helping someone on with their coat, fencing, partying, hoovering or playing a harp, among many other things.
The First Cut runs till 9 June so you’ve got a while to get down there. It really is a wonder of patience and skill, with layers of meaning.
Sue is one of our team of bloggers. When not writing dreadful headlines for blog posts featuring old rock songs, she can be reached on sue AT creativenottingham.com and followed on Twitter @basfordian