Paper is a material that surrounds us every day. We doodle on it, make notes on it, write lists on it, make aeroplanes out of it. Even in the digital age, when we increasingly have the option to go ‘paperless’, paper is still a go to material. Paper is, perhaps, the very definition of the quotidian. Paper is seemingly extremely boring, perhaps due to its everyday nature, but really is anything but. Paper is full of potential – it might become a landscape, a simple sculpture or complex origami. A single piece of paper can become absolutely anything.
It is the material’s potential that is explored within the latest exhibition at The Sunday Painter. The gallery plays host to a number of works, all wrestling with different aspects of the material, and manages to arrange them in a way that provokes dialogue between the works without it being overwhelming. There is a mixture of surprising and expected responses to working with paper. There are several works which draw out the abstract potential within the everyday, including ‘Restaurant Drawing (Buren Again)’ by Jonathan Monk. The work is a seemingly ordinary receipt but with bold, vertical lines inscribed at the bottom, a miniature version of Daniel Buren’s legendary stripes. Buren is known for inserting the abstract into the everyday, often via interventions. In Monk’s work, the abstract makes its mark by directly printing itself on to the everyday.
It’s impossible to discuss works featuring paper without discussing the potency of the mark. A single drawn line or a typed word has the potential to dramatically change the world, whether it’s Paul Klee’s revolutionary notion of ‘a line is a dot that went for a walk’ or the typed words and handwritten signature of a president’s executive order. A mark on a piece of paper can start a world war or begin a line that becomes a sketch of your lover. ‘Joy in Paperwork #260, 261, 262’ by Amalia Pica explores the power of the typed word. In one of the works, a textual body is punctuated with bullet holes and spraying out from these holes is blood splatter, in the form of typed words. The red typeface contrasts with the black words of the rest of the body. This potent example of textual art is a reminder of the power of the written word. Pica’s works as a whole here are also a reminder of the playful potential and the joy that can be found within exploring language and mark.
Also on show is one of Wolfgang Tillmans’ paper drops, ‘Paper Drop (Shadow)’. This beautifully simple work, a photograph of a photograph, is a masterpiece in everyday structure, light and image. It also creates an interesting dialogue with a work by Samara Scott. I first encountered Scott’s work at Frieze in 2015. Her works are sinkholes for the detritus of the modern age, a gathering of lip gloss and glitter in the sewer. Like the work I saw at Frieze, ‘Bruise’ is also set in the floor but this work is far less glittery or decadent. Instead the work is a putrid colour scheme of chartreuse, ultramarine and sea green, and is formed of toilet paper, Bloo cistern block, packaging card and turmeric. The folds and curves in the work present a structural echo of Tillmans’ work. The work obviously provides a link to the everyday – we all encounter a toilet during our day but it also directly engages with the world outside of The Sunday Painter. The work subtly ripples and responds to the pulse of Peckham, which during my visit included building work outside of the gallery. It’s a reminder that these works cannot be entirely separated from the world outside and placed in a white cube, and nor should they be.