Assorted Paper at The Sunday Painter

The term 'assorted' sets this group show at The Sunday Painter, SE15, apart from other material-focused exhibitions, namely those boasting works on paper. Featuring several prominent names in contemporary art, 'Assorted Paper' explores the medium for its versatility, materiality, texture and quotidian uses, producing a far more thorough narrative than anticipated.

Contrary to the intense whiteness, or blankness, one might expect from a show focused on the use of paper, The Sunday Painter's artists work in a wide range of media, and as soon as the viewer enters the space, we encounter movement, whether this is a flashing light, open water or a kinetic visuality in the form of unusual patterns. This is a fine example of the potential of group exhibitions: the theme is clearly manifested in each piece, yet there is no uniformity nor a set time period, as works range from Eva Hesse's 1961 ink piece 'Untitled' to Samara Scott's 'Bruise' from 2017, as pictured below.

Installation view: Samara Scott, Bruise, 2017. Toilet paper, cistern bloo block, packaging card, tumeric, 115cm x 115cm x 7cm. The Sunday Painter, London.

The latter is an aesthetically compelling piece where synthetic materials mimic the natural, while simultaneously working together to create a shallow depth in the form of a marshy micro-installation. Due to its placement on the floor and its unusual 'ingredients' such as cistern bloo block, Scott challenges boring, outdated media classifications to create a sculptural painting-cum-installation, while also emulating the inverse of 'the sublime to the ridiculous', as this earthy piece is meditative while at the same time the viewer finds themselves contemplating dyed, wet toilet paper on the ground. It is surreal but it is beautiful.

Away from the experience of fine art viewing, a great deal of the show highlights paper as a staple of Western life. Despite the seemingly simple premise, this soon overflows into a sharp commentary about consumerism and first-world waste, most notably through the work of Leo Fitzmaurice and Amalia Pica. The former artist has multiple works on show, and like 'Bruise', 'You Try to Tell Me But I Never Listen' is arresting in its position on the gallery floor. Hypnotising the viewer with pattern and repetition, the piece confuses the brain due to the chasm between the artwork's material, process and product. It is almost as if the brain does not want to acknowledge that the cyclical, striking pattern on the floor is merely a domestic object, in this case a found retail flyer.

Leo Fitzmaurice, Post Match, Salem (white stripe), 2003. Folded cigarette-packet top, 100mm x 90mm x 4mm. The Sunday Painter, London. and ~
Leo Fitzmaurice, Post Match L&M (red), 2009. Folded cigarette-packet top, 100mm x 90mm x 4mm. The Sunday Painter, London.

In another two pieces by Fitzmaurice, 'Post Match, Salem (white stripe)' and 'Post Match L&M (red), which were interestingly created two years apart, it is the turn of these tiny sculptural works to highlight the versatility of paper as a basis for further communications. The works have a strong storytelling ability without being explicit nor extravagant. A comical binary element persists in that where cigarette boxes are usually branded with slogans reminding us of their negative effects on the body, in these sculptures we find the boxes gaining vitality and, in a sense, coming to life instead of symbolising disease and death. As such, this is an ongoing metaphor in 'Assorted Paper' - where trees have been destroyed so that humans can momentarily enjoy paper, artists are giving the material a second life.

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