Discovery and experimentation

On the screen: orange hi-vis shirt pulp with white cotton pulp and flood-mud.

On the screen: orange hi-vis shirt pulp with white cotton pulp and flood-mud.

This week I’ve been experimenting in my studio. Trying out paper pulps to see how they worked together. Adding mud that I still have left from the 2017 flood which submerged my papermaking studio in Murwillumbah after Cyclone Debbie.

This mud is precious. It speaks to me of crisis but also of opportunity. It became the foundation work for my exhibition Deluge and continues to draw me in to its materiality. I wanted to pulp up a workman’s hi-vis shirt which was in a bag of donated clothing at the Salvation Army headquarters in Townsville. There were several bags of sheets and workmen’s clothing which were too stained to be passed on and so they gave them to me for my art.

I wanted to see what kind of paper it made and trialled the orange pulp with white cotton pulp and mud. I was surprised and pleased with the results. I tend to not do so much experimenting, but when I do it propels me into new discoveries. Sometimes its just about turning up in the studio and setting to work. I found this quote from Venezulaean born artist Arturo Herrera in my art journal from 2011. It is from an essay on Abstraction, Chance and Collage.

Coming to the studio is time for discovery. As Stravinsky said, “Unless you work for many hours, nothing is going to happen.” So, the muse of invention doesn’t exist; you just have to work. It’s a job, and you just have to come. For me, usually, it happens at the last minute of the last hour: I’m utterly exhausted, and I thought it was a wasted day, and then something happens. So, I believe in just being in the studio, trying different things, playing, experimenting. ~ Arturo Herrera

This is often how I feel when I spend the day working. I turn up and start somewhere. Often I have made a small collage for my daily art practice which then leads me into thinking about colour or line. Or it could be just having my hands in the paper vat, swirling pulp around.

What surprises me, although I guess it shouldn’t, is the way I come back to the same techniques, over and over again. The things from that 2011 journal continue to interest me; collage, abstract calligraphy, the torn line, stitching, paste up posters with graffiti and print, subversive paper. Having just finished stitching a bed sized paper quilt/prayer mat/ artwork, I know that making big work is so very satisfying so I need to start thinking big! Stepping into a bigger version of myself and thinking big experimental thoughts of discovery. A whole bigger world awaits….

In the garden studio with paper vat, white pulp and flood mud.

In the garden studio with paper vat, white pulp and flood mud.

Heather Matthew