Book Review: Paper Collage: Chinese Style
Paper Collage: Chinese Style by Zhu Liqun Paper Arts Museum (2016). Shanghai Press and Publishing. Development Company, Ltd. ISBN 978-1-602-20023-4
Collage, according to author and artist Zhu Liqun, is a "sentimental and self-concentrated" art form. (p. 13) The limitations of working with paper (as opposed to paint) forces the collage artist to test the boundaries of paper by tearing, folding, crumpling, or splitting it and, with a healthy dose of imagination, bring to life images that may not carry the details of an oil painting, but can mimic the brush strokes of freehand brush techniques of Chinese painting. "The key of paper collage making," Liquin writes, "is to discover our power of imagination. Without it, the art will become mechanical and boring no matter how great the techniques and theories that we have." (p. 10).
Throughout the book Liqun offers readers step-by-step lessons that start with gathering a variety of papers (embossed paper, printing paper, cardstock, translucent tracing paper, sketch paper, poster paper, and tissue paper) and tools (glue, pencil, eraser, knife). The introductory lessons help readers become comfortable with tearing and assembling fairly simple shapes and master basic color and composition. He points out that the characteristics of paper--the way it tears, the changes in dye lots from page to page, the variance in texture and thicknesses--make it nearly impossible to recreate the exact same collage twice. Even his own samples have slight shifts in them and that's to be celebrated.
Perhaps the most interesting lessons for me were four toward the end of the book. Focusing on art style, has collagists make flowers in a vase using an abstract expressionism style, watercolor style, impressionism style, and freehand brush style.
"Art style refers to the relatively consistent characteristics and tone of an artist or artistic group that are developed during a series of practice. In paper collage making various art styles are widely applied. Here, we do not strictly follow the common art styles to define our paper collage work, but we can appreciate the different art styles when enjoying them: realism vs freehand style, abstract expressionism vs figurativism, eastern vs western style, as well as fauvism and impressionism, etc. Different styles can provide us different feelings. Some artwork are like watercolor paintings, some are like oil paintings, some are like traditional Chinese paintings, some are like prints, and so on." (p. 87)
At times, I've wanted to bring more spontaneity to my own collage work. This could very well be a way into exploring that concept deeper.
I'm excited about this book. It's beautifully laid out with lessons to follow for collage artists at any level. The only thing I didn't really agree with is Liqun's assertion that collage is "new". It's been around in one form or another as long as there has been paper and glue. But, I do agree that the mass production of paper gives collage artists a wide variety of options to explore the art form and let their imaginations run free.
If you read this book, please let me know what you think!