By Rodrigo Brandao
Starting on February 2, 2010, at the Brazilian Consulate in New York City, paper maker Junia d’Affonseca will showcase her latest works in a new solo exhibit titled Papers.
With pieces created in the last 10 years, mostly inspired by geological formations resulted from earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanos, d’Affonseca’s works were produced from recycled vegetable fibers, such as cotton, abaca, linen, bananas leaves, and sizal. However, she also brings works made out discarded Brazilian banknotes from a period of hyper-inflation, among of other recycled sources.
On Tuesday, February 2, the Brazilian Consulate will be hosting a public reception for the opening of Papers, from 6pm to 7:30pm. The Brazilian Consulate is located at 1185 Avenue of the Americas. For more information, visit www.Brazilny.org
“I believe this exhibition presents an opportunity for viewers, sensitive to environmental issues, to reflect upon one person’s interaction with these issues as expressed through the creative use of organic materials,” said Junia in a prepared press statement.
Ms. d’Affonseca began making paper in the early 1980s, with Jorge Mendonza and Lourdes Cedram, in São Paulo, Brazil. Over the years, she has continued her studies in paper making, experimenting with various fibers in Brazil and participating in workshops at paper mills in Europe and the United States.
In the interview below, conducted on February 1, 2010, Junia d’Affonseca talks a bit more about her passion for paper.
Q: When did you become interested in paper not only as a medium, but also as the theme and subject of your artistic expression?
A: About 25 years ago. When I began making paper, I realized that fibers are a very malleable material and that you can create many things with them.
Q: What are some of the materials that you use to create your work? How many types of papers will you be showing at this exhibition?
A: I use the fibers that I find in the environment where I live. In Brazil, it was common to work with banana and papaya leaves as well as artichoke, onion and garlic fibers. Here in the Northeast of the United States, there are obviously not as many fibrous plants as in the tropics, but one can easily work with cotton and linen. In fact, I have even used old cotton shirts and bluejeans to make paper.
Q: Nowadays, we tend to think of paper as an serialized, homogenic and mass produced product. But your version of paper is the exact opposite of that! Is that part of your motivation in doing this kind of work? And can we say that in your work, there is no such a thing as two identical papers (or sheets of paper)?
A: All the papers I make are unique, even when they are commissioned by clients for invitations, menus, etc. In this artesanal process it is impossible to mass produce paper, and this is what I find so attractive about paper making. In this exhibition, I’m showing only the works that have developed textured surfaces; they are for observing, not for writing or printing on.
Q: By reading some of your statements, I understand that your work reflects a very contemporary (and personal) preoccupation with the environment. Can you expand on that? Is that the main theme of this exhibition?
A: We all live contemporaneously, and this is reflected in everything I make. Current events invade our lives all the time and we are affected by them. I believe that humanity has been altered by this, and questions arise such as: What is natural? And what is man-made?
Q: I want to explore a different side of your work. Most historians seem to agree that paper, as we know it today, was invented in China circa 105 AD. But it is clear that there is a connection between our paper and the Egyptian-made Papyrus, which was made from sliced sections of the flower stem of the papyrus plant. So in that sense, the evolution of paper is a major technological event that fundamentally changed our relationship with language, time and history. Is your work trying to raise some of these issues, as we live in a world filled with different kinds of screens and historical surfaces? Are you trying to make your audience reflect on our historical mediums and technologies, as opposed to only focusing on content and messages?
A: The process of making papyrus is very different than the one for making paper, even though the papyrus plant is itself very good for making paper. It is interesting to note that both of these processes do not produce any toxic wastes — natural products are just being recycled — which I find appealing. But my relation to the audience is quite simple: upon seeing my work, I would just like people to have some sort of visual pleasure. If my works motivate someone to think about something else, then that’s up to the individual.
Q: How do you define your work? Do you still get a lot of people wanting you to “explain” your work to them? Do audiences still struggle with art works that aren’t immediately obvious or thematically transparent?
A: Working with paper has the same effect as working music to me; it’s part of my life. After I learned how to make paper, if I do not actually physically make it for a long period of time, I miss it and yearn to get back to work. It is the same as playing my flute … Like a ritual, a prayer, a meditative moment, food for the soul.
List of Recent Exhibitions:
Pinacoteca Brasileira – São Paulo, Brazil
Museu FAAP – São Paulo, Brazil
Museu Casa da Moeda – Quito, Equador
Centro de Cultura na Universidade de Minas Gerais – Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Café Jungle – São Paulo, Brazil
Feira da Industria do Papel – Centro de Convenções – Anhembi, Brazil
Prefeitura Municipal de Santana do Parnaiba, Brazil
United Nations at the Secretariat Lobby in the Secretariat building at the United Nations Headquarters
Works in private colletions in the U.S.A., Argentina, Italy, Spain, Australia and United States.