Saturday, March 20, 2010

Between the Folds: Origami and Paper Art | Notes and Selected Quotes

The Artisan

From the Website:

Origami may seem an unlikely medium for understanding and explaining the world. But around the globe, several fine artists and theoretical scientists are abandoning more conventional career paths to forge lives as modern-day paper folders. Through origami, these offbeat and provocative minds are reshaping ideas of creativity and revealing the relationship between art and science.
BETWEEN THE FOLDS chronicles 10 of their stories. Featuring interviews with and insights into the practice of these intrepid paper folders, the film opens with three of the world's foremost origami artists: a former sculptor in France who folds caricatures in paper rivaling the figures of Daumier and Picasso; a hyper-realist who walked away from a successful physics career to challenge the physics of a folded square instead; and an artisanal papermaker who folds impressionistic creations from the very same medium he makes from scratch.

The film then moves to less conventional artists, exploring concepts of minimalism, deconstruction, process and empiricism. Abstract artists emerge with a greater emphasis on concept, chopping at the fundamental roots of realism, which have long dominated traditional origami. The film also features advanced mathematicians and a remarkable scientist who received a MacArthur Genius Award for his computational origami research.

While debates ebb and flow on issues of folding technique, symbolism and purpose, this unique film shows how closely art and science are intertwined. The medium of paper folding—a simple blank, uncut square—emerges as a resounding metaphor for the creative potential for transformation in all of us.

Between the Folds is one of the more profound and enlightening documentaries I have seen in some time. (And I watch a lot of documentaries.) For at least a short while, you can find the entire film at PBS: Independent Lens.

What follows are a few clips from the film, some of my notes and a selection of quotations from the featured artists.

Much of the Beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.
- Henri Matisse

The three themes that I find most interesting are:

  • The challenge to create beauty with a limited medium
  • The tension between between technical  proficiency and emotional meaning
  • The relationship between the art and music

    From the History:

    Akira Yoshizawa, who died in 2005 at age 94, is considered one of the progenitors of modern origami. In the 1930s, he developed a system of folding patterns employing a set of symbols, arrows and diagrams. By the 1950s, these patterns were published and widely available, contributing to origami’s global reach and standardization. Yoshizawa and other origami masters formed local and international organizations publicizing the art.

    Yoshizawa never sold a single one of his pieces. Sold soup for a living.

    As I get older and older, I find that the big task is to put more white canvas in my work, to not play too many notes in music, to start to say what do I not want to put in this figure. To try to reduce it down to just a few lines and essences of what it is. That's a much tougher challenge to me now, trying to make something much more representational.  - Bernie Payton

    Technique vs. Emotion

    Yes, I think as I will get more and more old, I will take out technique and just keep emotional things with the paper. - Eric Joisel

    The Postmodernist

    Lots of people think about the reality of an elephant in origami. Does it look real? Does it look like an elephant? But it's a piece of paper. Of course, it can't look like an elephant. But people measure the detail. They measure the proportions to the real elephant to see if it is good or bad. And if it's got really long spindly legs, it can't be a good elephant. If it's got huge, huge, huge ears or just three legs or something, it can't be a good elephant. The elephants with four legs are better than the elephants with three legs. This is not just a problem in origami. This is a problem in painting. For example, you see a painting by Mondrian or something. Just colored squares and black lines. Is that better than, say, a painting of flowers? For many people it's not. I mean, it's the same in origami: that they would prefer to see an origami elephant than an origami blumpf. - Paul Jackson

     One Crease - Paul Jackson

    The process of making is the point of it. The object looks good if the process felt good. This needs to be a kind of ballet. And this is what I try to with my work, to take it to an edge of something - because that's always where the interesting things happen. - Paul Jackson

    A simple compostion is like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It has a simple melody, a little bit of structure, not a lot going on, but it can be very elegant and nice - but simple. So, in the world of patterns, the hexagon grid or triangular grid is kind of like those real simple melodies. - Chris Palmer

     Chris Palmer at Origami USA

    When you are putting a crease in a piece of paper, you are essentially changing the memory. - Eric Demaine

    The Theory of Everything

    In the beginning we didn't know what would be possible, then we tried to push the limits and, eventually, found that everything could be made, that you could make any shape that you want with straight sides just by folding with one straight cut. - Eric Demaine

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