Paper Trail - May 2018

Posted by Fiona Cable on

Highly executed paintings, drawings & monotypes by five established artists. Belinda Griffiths, Paul Screach, Merthyr Ruxton, MG Walker & Ellen Johansen.

Why works on paper?

Encompassing a diverse range of media — from drawing and painting to collage— works on paper can offer a glimpse into the artist’s creative process. For many artists, the freedom and immediacy of working on paper becomes instrumental to their practices, spawning new techniques, subjects and methods. For others it is an end in itself.

 Major museum and gallery exhibitions continue to underline the central importance of works on paper of many different artists.

The Impressionists considered draughtsmanship so vital that they deemed works on paper as important as their paintings. They changed the notion that drawings were purely a working tool and considered every step of an artist’s creative process to be equally significant. Accomplished draughtsmen like Degas, Cezanne and Seurat rarely left their home without a notebook and a set of pencils. Paper was a transportable outlet for their visual imagination. Ultimately, the extent to which the Impressionists valued drawing is reflected in how frequently they chose to exhibit them.

A David Hockney exhibition in New York devoted an entire room to works on paper, displaying the keen, delicate visual immediacy that underpins Hockney’s entire practice. Henri Matisse became completely immersed in the practice of drawing from pen and ink, to charcoal. He utilised paper in his extensive 30-year practice of printmaking along with his well-known cut-outs made with paper. 

In Paper Trail, Belinda Griffiths’ work explores an ongoing interest in the emotive potential of the gestural mark. Belinda uses the human figure as a starting point and creates the works in series, with immediacy and spontaneity. This method of intuitive mark-making allows the work to communicate on a level which is deeply human. 

Paul Screach feels his paintings largely paint themselves. Without the use of reference material or a preconceived starting point the process becomes more intuitive. "I observe a chain of incidental or collateral happenings - my role then becomes one of editor, deciding what to keep and what to reject." Results are often anthropomorphic in nature but sometimes more baffling. The underlying subject seems to reflect the human condition – identity and self-image, relationships and interactions, activities and personalities. 

'About Coffee' is a series of 9 works-on-paper created by M G Walker and Ellen Johansen. The collaborative mixed media paintings are based on Johansen and Walker's artistic interpretation of the historical survey, 'Coffee Houses of Wellington 1939 to 1979: coffee in pre-espresso New Zealand' by Craig Miller. 

“Our interest in coffee, making coffee and the history of coffee led us to discover Craig Miller’s large format book on the history of coffee in New Zealand, published in 2015. We decided to make a series of small works-on-paper responding to this history, focusing on the visual history contained in this book. The history of coffee in Wellington during these forty years describes the pivotal role US servicemen and women played in converting New Zealand from a largely tea-drinking nation to a culture that began to include coffee drinking and places to drink coffee.”  Each work is hand painted on Hahnemuhle paper 600 gm.

Merthyr Ruxton’s drawings are the 'thinking' before ‘painting'.  Charcoal and graphite are just two media she uses – and both provide a wide range of options in terms of application. “The drawings still have the ‘sensation of place’ idea that I have been working with over the past 4 years – not quite identifying the location but giving an indication of how that place had felt.”

The tactility of paper is something with which each of us is familiar; paper is something that we have used in our daily life since childhood. Paper was the support for our first means of expression, and in each of the works in this exhibition, each artist creates a dialogue of their relationship with paper. 

We present the work of five artists who explore a variety of means of producing work on paper, relishing its texture and luminosity.


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