PAPER from the MRAG Collection

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Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) collects works on paper. Paper is an exhibition of recently acquired works on paper from the MRAG collection, and this is the first time that such a large display of works on paper from the collection have been exhibited together. Paper showcases the simplest drawing, to paintings, photography and intricately worked prints, allowing the viewer to observe and discover the many ways artists use paper as a medium for their art. The aim of Paper is to give the visitor an understanding of paper as a surface for art making and how the use of different types of paper can result in so many different outcomes - in a way this exhibition is delivering a paper on paper.

THE HISTORY OF THE COLLECTION The MRAG collection grew from simple beginnings. The first artworks in the collection were acquired in 1957 and were the winning entries from the annual Maitland Art Prize. In 1975 the art gallery, then known as Maitland City Art Gallery, found its first home at Brough House and the collection continued to grow from the Maitland Art Prize, an acquisitive prize until 2004, and from gifts from the community and selective purchases by the art gallery. This method of building a collection has its drawbacks and as a result it became quite an eclectic mix of art works. That is not to say that there aren’t some ‘gems’ from this period that MRAG is very proud to own, including works by renowned Australian artists such as John Coburn AM, George Baldessin and Suzanne Archer, selected by the art prize judges who included Sydney Ball, Elwyn Lynn AM, Edmund Capon AM, OBE and William Bowmore AO, OBE.

The art gallery moved to its present location in High Street in 2003 and then became known as Maitland Regional Art Gallery. In 2004 it was decided that a full assessment of the collection should be undertaken to determine a future direction for MRAG’s collection policy. What MRAG needed was a collection focus that would build upon the existing collection’s strengths and guide acquisitions toward a more cohesive collection of artworks. The assessment of the MRAG collection was completed by a group of consultants, including two conservators, an independent curator and an art valuer, and in 2005 the new direction for the MRAG collection was decided - and this was to focus the MRAG collection on works on paper. By focusing on one particular area of art making, such as works on paper, the MRAG collection would then become a unique collection when compared to other regional galleries; would provide MRAG staff an area in which to specialise their skills and knowledge; and would guide and influence MRAG’s exhibition programming and education programs. Around the same time that a more meaningful collection policy was being formulated, MRAG took on a new direction and impetus with the arrival of its new Cultural Director, Joe Eisenberg OAM. Since then the MRAG collection has grown considerably from 700 artworks to over 2500 artworks, due to discerning acquisitions by Eisenberg as well as his polite but persistent wooing of some of Australia’s generous artists and art collectors. Many of the artworks acquired for the collection over this time have been gifts from MRAG’s generous benefactors and almost all of those art works donated are works on paper as a result of the collection focus.

Paper is a simple material used as a surface for art making for thousands of years. It is a material that is familiar to most people - touched, written upon, wiped, burnt, wrapped, filed, and read from on a daily basis; and usually the first material on which most of us, as children, create our first art. Paper is also most often the first material used by artists (with a pencil or pen) to turn a thought into a physical reality; a quick and direct way to communicate an idea.

DRAWINGS AND PAINTINGS Sometimes artists will resort to grabbing the closest piece of paper to capture that illusive thought or idea, and often the simplest materials can result in surprisingly honest and striking results. Robert Hirschmann’s Self portrait (Madrid), 1996, (purchased in 2007), is one such example. This self portrait was executed with blue biro on the back of a serviette from a Madrid restaurant when Hirschmann was travelling through Europe in 1996. Hirschmann’s facial features are subtly embellished by the printed restaurant crest visible through the flimsy serviette paper and as a result his ears appear quirkily adorned with chicken drumsticks. Other artists use simple sketchbook paper for multiple sketches as preparation for more detailed works, like the pencil landscape drawings of Alan Jones, or rip out a page from their sketchbook for a fully resolved drawing like Bill Brown’s I am attached, 2006, (purchased in 2008). Many artists, like Ken Whisson, use paper as their preferred medium for completed drawings, not simply as the initial surface for preliminary sketches. Ken Whisson is a well regarded Australian artist, known for his works on paper as well as his larger

paintings with oils on linen and MRAG is fortunate to have a number of Ken Whisson drawings in its collection. His drawings are unmistakable as ‘Whissons’ as over the years he has developed a signature style of raw, jagged lines darting around the paper; sparse but expressive works that verge on abstraction yet retain a figurative narrative. Whisson kindly assists the viewer decipher his imagery with his titles - allowing the first time viewer that gratifying ‘ah ha’ moment as they recognise that motorcycle in the midst of a confusion of lines, in Motorcycle, 1985 or find the cat under the table in Interior with cat, 1994, (both gifted by Patrick Corrigan in 2009 and 2010). Artists that work with more substantial mediums such as acrylic or oil paint, pastels, oil stick or collage often require a more heavyweight paper to support their chosen medium. Some papers are selected for their qualities to support themselves when pinned directly to a wall like Christopher Hodges Invasion Day (for Margo), 2005, (gifted by Helen Eager in 2010). In this painting Hodges has used synthetic polymer in the emotive colours of black and red as a tribute to Dr Margo Neale, indigenous art curator and historian. By displaying this work pinned directly to the wall, unframed, the viewer is able to feel closer to the work and hopefully sense the immediacy or freshness of the work and the paper surface. There is also a nice link to Maitland as it was painted by Hodges at Mount View, not far from Maitland. Other artists use paper as both medium and surface to create a desired effect or outcome. This can be seen in Ian Smith’s layered collage Schipperstraat, 1998, (gift of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth in 2009) and

Paul Bacon’s 3D drawings Drawing (1-4), 2007, (purchased in 2007). In his works Bacon has used matte board, a material normally used to mount or frame a finished work, as his drawing surface as well as cut outs of matte board which he has collaged to create depth to his small works.

PRINTS There are close to 1000 prints in the MRAG collection created by many different printing methods, from the simplest linocut by Eric Thake to the more complex processes used in the Lloyd Rees lithographs and Arthur Boyd etchings. Paper selection is a very important component in the work of printmakers. Often heavyweight papers are necessary to survive the many stressful processes, such as soaking, blotting, rubbing, pressing over plates and stone, that paper endures during printmaking. Some of the most intricate prints in the MRAG collection are printed on the most heavyweight paper for example the linocut prints by Denis Nona. Denis Nona is widely acknowledged as one of Australia’s most important Torres Strait Islander artists and recently won the Works on Paper award at the 2010 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Nona’s Dhogai Zug, 2007, a gift from the artist to MRAG in 2008, is a finely detailed linocut print on paper that has then been hand-coloured. This work is almost three metres wide. Dhogai Zug is Nona’s re-telling of one of the ancient legends belonging to the people of his home, Badu Island. By creating this work on such a large scale Nona is able to let the whole story of the Dhogai (witch) and the island warriors of Badu unfold across the paper, much like the stories within a Chinese scroll.

PHOTOGRAPHY The photography in the MRAG collection is quite diverse and reflects the development of the medium as an art form from documentary to conceptual. Originally used as a tool to capture the real world there are many historical photographs of Maitland within the collection, including the black and white photographs by Neville Foster documenting the Maitland floods of 1955. In a slight shift away from the purely documentary photograph are the Shot in Maitland photographs by Michel Brouet and the portraits of Australian artists by Greg Weight. In his photographs Weight has not only taken a photo of an artist but has also captured the essence of each sitter and the creative energy within their studio settings. The contemporary photography within the MRAG collection ranges from abstract to conceptual and it is evident that each photographer has made certain decisions regarding aspects of the paper they have used, such as scale, tone, paper surface, weight and gloss, to best illustrate their re-inventions of reality. As an example, in her seductively dark and dramatic images Red Lounge, 2003 and Untitled #9, 2000 (both gifted by Patrick Corrigan in 2007), Sharon Green has chosen high gloss paper to increase the depth of colour and highlight the small sinister glints of light within her tableaux. Works on paper is a collection focus that has enabled MRAG to build upon an already substantial group of artworks and develop a selective and diverse collection. With such a wide scope, works on paper can encompass many different avenues of art making and as a result MRAG has a multifaceted collection that includes works from some of


Australia’s most renowned artists as well as its most contemporary and exciting. The art in the MRAG collection relates stories and histories, investigates darkness and light, explores shape and colour, communicates stillness or movement and reveals the purity of a mark or a line, all with the one uniting element, that all these works are created on one surface - paper. Cheryl Farrell Collection Curator Maitland Regional Art Gallery

(above left)

Denis Nona, Dhogai Zug , 2007 hand coloured linocut on paper, 108.5 x 268.5 cm (plate size) Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Denis Nona, 2008 (above middle)

Arthur Boyd, Prodigal Son , 1988 etching with aquatint on paper, 50.5 x 75.5 cm (plate size) Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Max and Elizabeth Miller, 2006 (above right)

Sharon Green, Red Lounge , 2003

cibachrome photograph, 91 x 91 cm (paper size) Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Patrick Corrigan, 2007 (cover front)

Ian Smith, Schipperstraat , 1998 ink, crayon and collage on paper ,100 x 71 cm (paper size) Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth, 2009 (cover back)

Graham Fransella, Walking Figure (detail), 1990

etching on paper, 194.5 x 161 cm (paper size) Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program in memory of Andrew Joseph, 2010

EDUCATION A person of quality and character is understood to have moral fibre; this implies that characteristics ingrained in our personality positively influence our actions and behaviour. If in search of a symbol for this concept, paper would be an apt choice. The diverse qualities of paper heavily influence the behaviour of mediums applied to it’s surface, the paper’s usage, and it’s lifespan. Indeed, the specialist language we use to describe the qualities of paper has inherited undertones that are more human than inanimate. Paper is personal; paper is part of our everyday lives, and in particular, artists who use it grow to have very personal relationships with it, often developed over years. Many artists form strong preferences and even personal attachments to specific papers and papermakers. Paper as an artistic medium will always incite such idiosyncratic and nuanced bonds with the artists who use it.

Bill Brown, I Am Attached , 2006 pencil on paper, 40 x 32.5 cm (paper size) Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2008


This exhibition, Paper, highlights the diversity of the medium demonstrated through recent acquisitions from within the MRAG collection. Paper also acknowledges significant purchases and donations since the inception of our collection focus initiated in 2005. This educational supplement is intended to provide insight into some of the main vocabulary of paper, demonstrating its diverse applications in industry, art and everyday life. We expand our understanding of paper by examining the language used to define it.


All paper is not created equal. The quality of materials used and the manufacturing process affects appearance and durability; this in turn, influences the paper’s potential applications in industry, as well as art, and in general day to day life. Particularly crucial in the art world is the issue of lifespan. Cotton papers generally have the best anticipated lifespan. Papers derived primarily from wood tend to age faster, become weak and discolour. This may happen over a few hundred years, but delaying this decline presents a range of challenges for museum and gallery staff. Elements such as light; water; heat; humidity; static and dust all contribute to decreasing a paper’s lifespan. Additional stresses on paper, such as repeated use, bending, rough handling, and impurities added to the paper from the oils and contaminants on our fingers and hands, are avoided also. To counter these issues, white cotton gloves are worn while handling artworks and the environment where works of art are exhibited and stored is monitored.

CELLULOSE; COTTON; COTTON-LINTERS; FIBRE; KOZO; RAG; WASHI; WOOD PULP: These words refer to the material used to create paper. Generally, paper is made of wood fibres, cotton fibres, or some mixture of both. Paper however can be made out of virtually any fibrous material, from seaweed to denim jeans. Wood pulp in western countries comes from trees such as spruce, pine, fir, eucalyptus, aspen and birch. In oriental papers, trees such as kozo, mitsumata and gampi are used. Rag and cotton



papers are derived from cotton material, coined ‘rag’ paper as it was often from textile off-cuts that paper was made. The word cellulose refers to the natural fibres found both in cotton and wood and generally is used when the paper is not 100% rag.

STOCK; GSM; WEIGHT; STRENGTH; THICKNESS; BULK: These words refer to the thickness of the paper. GSM stands for grams per square metre. Standard office paper is 80gsm. Artist quality papers generally start at 110gsm, however strength and weight are not always the same. Despite being significantly thinner, oriental washi paper is made from long tree fibres which create robust papers, better capable of enduring folding and other stresses. Artists make decisions about paper quality in relation to their needs. Erasing a pencil line on sturdy, good quality artist paper will do minimal damage; while a delicate, translucent paper stock can infer subtle human qualities of beauty, fragility or tenderness. Longevity of purpose is often another factor that influences paper choice. Newspapers are printed on a paper stock very different to that of, say for example, wedding certificates.

COLD PRESS; FOURDRINIER MADE; HOT PRESS; MACHINE PRESS; MOULD MADE; VELLUM; These words refer to the process of making the paper, intended to convey information about surface quality. Paper is created by suspending wood or cotton fibres in water, agitating the water

so that the fibres are evenly dispersed, and then drawing a screen through the water. The water drains through the screen, and the remaining pulp is then pressed to expel the water, and left to dry as a sheet. Varying the surface quality of the paper is achieved by altering one or more of the factors involved. Smooth paper, created by using a very fine grain screen and hot pressed, is much easier to draw on, whilst cold pressed finishes, with their moderate texture levels, are better for charcoal or pastel. Rough grain paper can add texture for better grip when gluing objects to the page.

BITE; GRAIN; FINISH; SEMI-ROUGH; ROUGH; TOOTH; These words refer descriptively to the texture of the paper’s surface. Mediums such as pencil or graphite, when drawn across a page resist against the ‘tooth’ or ‘grain’ of the page, leaving marks of varying strength. Other words such as ‘bite’ seem to have emerged colloquially. Architects use paper with a smooth grain; the pencil glides over the paper, enabling them to draw fine lines and see clearly the point where two lines intersect on a plan or make accurate measurements. For artists, paper with a rough finish gives them access to the full tonal range of their pencil when drawing.

ALUM-GELATIN SIZING; DOUBLE SIZING; HARD SIZING; SIZING: These words refer to a range of finishes or substances applied to paper during its construction, and can be internal or on the paper’s surface. Sizing can act as a protective or preparatory glaze; such as pre-sized watercolour paper, which hinders a paper’s ability to draw liquid into itself via capillary action. It can also act as a means of instilling particular qualities to paper, such as photographic paper which is sized with light sensitive chemicals. Sizing can have a protective or strengthening purpose, and much of today’s office paper is sized with a strengthening agent.

ABSORPTION; BLEED; BLOT; RUN: These words refer descriptively to how porous a paper is. Porous paper will draw liquid into itself, and artists find this either useful or infuriating depending on their intentions. Industrially, paper absorbency is important; receipt paper will often be sized with a plastic finish to repel spills, while toilet paper is advertised for its absorbency and softness. Words such as ‘bleed’ and ‘run’ are descriptive terms which have multiple meanings. ‘Bleed’ is also used in photography and graphic design to refer to an image running right to the edge of the paper, and in watercolour painting, to refer favorably to the way the sky bleeds into the surface of the paper.

ACID-FREE; ARCHIVAL; CHLORINE-FREE; LIGHT-RESISTANT; LIGNIN-FREE; PH NEUTRAL; These words refer to influences on the paper’s potential lifespan. Paper is made from natural fibre,

and all natural fibres age with time, inevitably discolouring and weakening as the fibres break down. Many factors which decrease paper lifespan are already present in wood and rag, such as lignin, which is a natural substance that binds the cells, fibres and vessels of the wood or plant matter together. In the interests of longevity these factors can be removed during paper manufacture. Other factors are added during the papermaking process, leading manufacturers to promote their omission from their papermaking process as an indicator of increased lifespan. Chlorine for example, is used to brighten the white of office paper, but it does creates an unstable environment for inks and paints.

ECOLOGICAL; POST-CONSUMER; RECYCLED; These words refer to environmentally considerate variants of paper-making, where some or all of the paper pulp has been recycled. Generally speaking recycled paper is not a favoured option among artists, as there are many unknown factors which will inevitably affect its lifespan. Recycled papers often contain high levels of whitening products such as chlorine, and are weaker than first-use papers, as the paper fibres are broken and weakened by undergoing a second papermaking process.

CUT; DECKLED; TORN; These words refer to the edge of the paper. In office paper, a cut finish is probably most desirable, but in artist’s paper, a more natural looking edge is often preferred. Deckled edges are the natural edges of the paper and are defined by the dimensions of the screen used to make the paper. If a piece of paper has four deckled edges, it means the paper has been made one piece at a time, which is a costly process. Many artists papers created on rolls, will have two deckled edges, and two torn edges.

WATERMARK; This word refers to the image, pattern, or branding which is often added to paper as a means of identification. Watermarks are imprinted into paper whilst wet. They are either stamped or rolled into the wet pulp, leaving an impression but no ink. Manufacturers endeavour to develop a reputation for quality or craftsmanship, which in turn becomes synonymous with their watermark. Watermarks also have interesting applications in a variety of industries. They are present in the security features of paper money and postal stamps, and provide a means of authentication for a range of important documents. The term watermark has been adopted to refer to digital codes which are encoded into electronic files and documents as a means of identification. Lauren van Katwyk Education Curator Maitland Regional Art Gallery


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