September 3, 2013

Cat Walking on Foamy Waters

A few months ago, while doing some house cleaning, I came across a collection of Chinese folk paper cuts. They were cut from red paper twenty odd years ago by an independent Hebei province folk artist. The artist was a quiet girl with a big imagination and artists adored her work. When she came to visit the Beijing Central art academy where I was studying the teaching artists all vied for each other to acquire the folk artist’s work. She was almost as popular as the Mongolian rock seller who sold polish rocks flattened on one side for seal carving.

Unfortunately I had taken the folk artist’s paper cuts to a painting scroller to be glued sized and mounted on backing paper. The wet process caused the dye in the paper cuts to run. But I kept the ruined paper cuts all these years rolled up and not preserved in an archival fashion. I decided to make mixed media collage art out of this set of paper cuts like I had done previously with a set of faded commercial color paper cuts.

Using an exacto blade I carefully cut the red paper cuts out of their backing paper and used archival glue to adhere them to five by seven inch primed and painted paper. To preserve the paper cuts, I applied a coat of gesso to them as well. These sat undisturbed for a few months while I worked on my drawings and finished a group of small mosaics.

This week I set out my acrylic paints and began work on the paper cut collages. The first one I finished was the paper cut of the cat. I had originally decided to use these folk art remnants as a point of departure for a painting - essentially painting over them and creating something entirely new. But as I painted the cat I found that I not only retained his shape, but completed a painting that looks very much in keeping with his folk art origins. I account for this because I have only just started doing acrylic paintings on paper again after a hiatus of two years. My first works are usually a bit tenuous when I switch media. It will probably take a few more paintings before I get a little more adventurous. I’m already looking at the rest of the paper cut collages and seeing the potential for greater abstraction and reinterpretation. Over the next two weeks it will be interesting to see what develops as I ease into the paint and paper.

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