Paper may be lightweight but its power isn’t. What’s written or drawn or drafted on it is indelible, memorable. Great histories are documented on paper. Poets write their feelings on paper. Journalists jot down their facts on paper. We read books and news on print. We doodle on paper. The bestselling ideas, the most revolutionary ideals find expression on book paper. But some artists have problems with it. Isn’t it ironic?
Art galleries, it turns out, shun paper artwork because of its lack of commercial value. Plus, according to them, they don’t last well. Or they do? The works of romantic painters Francisco Jose de Goya and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, to name a few, have lasted a lifetime.
“Despite the long history of printmaking dating back to the early ‘60s, paper as a medium has to be nurtured—like a child,” says artist Renato Habulan. Also the curator, he is one of the members, in the recently concluded paper art exhibit of 12 Pinoy artists called “Papelmismo.”
The exhibit is the sequel of their successful joint in 2012 exhibit dubbed “Papelismo,” back when they were only five artists. The first exhibit is a word play of papel and –ismo (kapitalismo, komunismo, sosyalismo). It centered on the political and social turmoil in the country during the ‘70s and ‘80s, the heyday of the artists’ careers.
Papelmismo, on the other hand, highlights the word “mismo” (exactly). This time, the 12 artists Benjie Torrado-Cabrera, Alfredo Liongoren, Arnel Mirasol, Thomas Daquioag, Neil Doloriicon, Alfredo Esquillo, Egai Talusan Fernandez, Emmanuel Garibay, Pablo Baen Santos, Allison Wong David, and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle’s very own Pinggot Zulueta, manipulated the papers and turned them into works of fancy. There’s a 3D paper cutout. There’s a termite-eaten paper magically turned seemingly into a painting, but not really. There’s a papier-mâché sculpture. And some folded paper bills, too.
Besides utilizing paper, the group proved that paper power could expand, not only in content, but also in form.
“This time, the medium is the message. There are no painted artworks but only imageries made from paper. The paper is the emotion of the artists,” says Renato.
The artists also remained true on their first theme, which is social realism. Among the artworks were Thomas Daquioag’s Binasurang Papel, inspired from Nora Aunor’s iconic line “my brother is not a pig” and his commentary on Nora’s “binasurang papel” when the government snubbed her major contributions in the film industry when she didn’t make the cut as a National Artist.
Pinggot Zulueta’s Ang Papel Ko, meanwhile, is a 3D collage of his editorial cartoons and some books and magazines he ripped to come up with a playful intersection of texts and images that convey social observations. “I want to be experimental. I don’t like it too profound to the point that nobody understands it. What you see is what you get,” he says.
But why focus on paper? The artists are all connected with paper—as a painter, as a journalist, as a printmaker, as an editorial cartoonist, and as a book illustrator, among others. Beyond this, however, Renato says the group wants to upgrade the seemingly “second-class rate” of paper as a medium of art. The group, which Renato jovially calls “oldies,” also wants to prove that they are not to be relegated in the periphery. According to him, art galleries nowadays snub old artists and favor the younger, more contemporary ones. They want to prove, that like paper, they are here to stay. The movement continues. This year, the group, which continues to grow, is plotting their third exhibit and calling it, “Ang Papel Mo,” a question of one’s role in life and society.