While perusing the UPPERCASE Work-in-Progress Society pool on Flickr, I came across this photo by Christine Kim. Intrigued, I contacted her for more details. Christine writes, "I'm preparing an origami parade for Nuit Blanche this year. Our installation is called Paper Orbs and it will be up next week." For those of you in Toronto, Nuit Blanche is this Saturday, October 5. "6300 paper orbs are folded and scrunched, ready to deploy. Join our parade at University and Armoury from sunset to sunrise."
It is always enjoyable to spend time in artists' studios and peek in on their process. In our current issue, our Work-in-Progress Society article took a new direction in that we decided to focus on an in-person interview rather than curating from the Flickr pool. Bee Kingdom Glass is an exciting 4-person studio hidden in an unassuming house in a Calgary residential neighbourhood. At one point, some of the members of Bee Kingdom were also roommates living in the house; now the living room is a small gallery, bedrooms are office studios—and the glass studio is out back in a converted garage. This close-knit group is aptly named; as glassblowers they are dependent on one another to see their individual creative visions come into form.
Vinciane de Pape, regular UPPERCASE contributor, interviewed Phillip, Kai, Ryan and Tim while I took photos for the article. When the Bees started a demo, I took an impromptu video of the process. You'll find more of my photos and full article about Bee Kingdom in our current issue.
This text written by Francisca Prieto was originally published in the now sold-out issue #12 of UPPERCASE magazine. In that issue, we asked various artists to describe their "life with paper."
To me there is something magic about paper; it is hard to point out something specific, though it is probably the endless possibilities that it offers... It all starts with a blank page!
Over the years I have been collecting a variety of things made of paper and those things inspire me, from old tickets and catalogues to vintage ledger books and all kind of unusual finds. Each has something fascinating about them, the colours, texture, concept or simply because they make me smile. I choose them because I feel that somehow they have a story to tell.
Each leaf of the book is folded using a traditional origami technique, to form a single modular structure. Selected and folded in a planned and considered way so that the dominant image, be it a chair, a bird, or a musical score, relates to the connecting pieces forming a multilayered artwork made up of many tiny compositions. By consciously linking each module a hidden narrative emerges in each of my works through the conceptual connections, thus combining my interest as an artist, mathematician and typographer, whilst searching for precision and fluidity in each artwork.
Paper, as you can imagine, is quite fragile, so there are no mistakes allowed. You can easily tear it or leave a mark on it. Working with old, often rare books, I find that each page is irreplaceable, so I have to work very carefully. But the experience of transforming something very fragile into something totally new is what drives me. I just want people to look at them in detail and treasure them in a different way.
For the last 2 years I have been working with old books. Books excite me and inspire me: the intimate relationship with their texture and colour and even their smell - all unique and distinct to each – ultimately feeds into the work. I have been working on a series entitled Between Folds, an ongoing body of work which draws together many of my interests: exploring the deconstruction of rare illustrated periodicals and books using modular structures whilst incorporating typographical elements. The delicate pages of these beautiful, often rare books are released from their bindings and restructured into new three-dimensional artworks. By dissecting, folding and re-connecting the pages, viewers are invited to experience looking at a book and all of its pages at once, yet without being able to read any one page individually.
I admire the dedication with which so many people work together into making these old journals, encyclopaedias, catalogues and books in general. The quality of their illustrations, the dedication with which the typesetter puts the text together, the precision of the binder, all contribute to create stunning art pieces. But the ones I work with have somehow lost their value due to damage by water, worms, missing pages, a broken spine, or they simply have been forgotten, so I love to give them back their glory.
Each book has a unique character and I enjoy translating that. I also like to keep as much of the book as possible, sometimes managing to use every single page, including the end papers and a bit from the cover. I like to keep any dedications, comments, fingerprints or other things that I find inside of them and that inform of their previous mysterious life.
To keep that summer feeling alive, the simplest solution is to purchase a print (or original!) Leah Giberson and hang it in your home to admire year-round. Lawn chairs, pools, airstream trailers and California homes are typical subject matter... but depicted in a not-so-typical way. Leah uses photographs as the base inspiration for her paintings, but with her use of graphic colours, shadows and composition she elevates the subjects into icons.
UPPERCASE featured Leah back in issue 6's Work-in-Progress Society pages.
Your subject matter is a nostalgic suburbia full of lush greens, manicured lawns and perfect skies. The scenes are idealized vignettes depicting manmade environments—the perfect house, a shiny Airstream trailer—yet the paintings are devoid of people. Your creative process, in which you paint over photographs, allows you to become an editor as well as an artist. What do you choose to exclude and why?
I paint over anything that feels unnecessary or distracting. This often includes neighboring homes, buildings, trees, and occasionally people. After simplifying the scene, I can focus on the parts that resonate with me like the looming shadows, tenuous connections of power lines or the reflected worlds visible in windows or on shiny surfaces. This process of distillation and embellishment is something we all do in our daily lives already. We highlight some moments, cover up others and either ignore or make assumptions about the rest in an attempt to find meaning in our experiences and reinforce our existing narratives. In short, we see what we want to see.
Why are you drawn to these particular scenes? What do they represent to you?
Suburbia has always been intriguing, yet foreign to me. I was raised by artists deep in the woods of New Hampshire in a cluttered old farmhouse full of art and all things handmade but we also had our share of painful struggle as a family. I learned about suburban life mostly from TV shows and on trips to visit my grandparents. From my limited and naïve perspective, I assumed the families in these homes felt safe, happy and at ease in their seemingly perfect worlds. I wanted that in my life too. As an adult I now realize that a flawlessly groomed lawn or manicured hedge does not guarantee any of those things, but I remain fascinated by these places and the disconnect between their fact and fiction.
How has posting work on Flickr been part of your development as an artist?
A couple years ago I started using Flickr on a daily basis when I was commissioned to make a large painting and wanted to post images of my progress for my client to see. Before I knew it, there were lots of other people leaving thoughtful comments and initiating some pretty interesting dialogues. I also discovered that I was reaching a MUCH larger and rapidly expanding audience than I ever had with my etsy shop, portfolio site or neglected blog. Flickr quickly became and has remained an integral part of my work flow and the site I update and check out more than any other.
In addition it has also led to a series of somewhat collaborative work. During the summer of 2008 I came across a photograph on Flickr that completely captivated me. Until that point I had only used my own photographs in my work, but I desperately wanted to make a painting based on this one. I contacted the photographer and asked for her permission. It turned out that she was thrilled with the idea and (I’m happy to say) with the results. Since then, I have completed at least 30 small paintings based on other people’s photographs and continue to look for new images out there that resonate with me. The photographers I’ve worked with thus far have been incredibly generous, enthusiastic and appreciative. It’s been a wonderfully positive and inspiring experience and has connected me with people and places from all around the world.