• John Diamond-Nigh

Why #paper?

#Water, for one thing. #Story, for another. A haunting, for a third.

Just about every #city I ever lived in clung to a #river: I clung to the river. The Niagara, the Susquehanna, the Seine, the Arno, and now the second oldest river in the world, the French Broad. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it was not. All serious makers make what they do from a hidden flow of bliss and conviction.

Think of a river this way, as a flow, a continuum, in which is suspended the white pulp of all the maps and books and prints and ideas of all the places and writers and artists we love. When I make paper, drawing the snowy pulp out of the water, I feel that communion with both the flow of time and all that’s most eccentric and sublime from our past. Like giving Socrates a bath.

Paper wasn't always paper as we know it today. But there always was a surface for transcribing the purchase of a pigeon or some thundery proverb from God. I spoke earlier of #archetypes. An archetype is a deep, inscrutable, misty machine that gives our lives its energy, its glamor, its shapes, even its destiny. Surface, whether paper, or canvas or clay, has always afforded those archetypal images their sketchbook. Just think of the Rosetta Stone or an etching by Rembrandt.

(I have, in fact, always liked drawings, sketches, preliminary studies better than the grand final painting or mosaic where ego starts to elbow in. The archetypal energy is purer there.)

Why story? What’s the railroad track out of the #unconscious mind, into the material world? Myths, sermons, stories, dreams and now, perhaps, movies. Paper is the long creek that has brought the Odyssey to every college Humanities course. When the courageous men of the early Renaissance wanted to leapfrog back over a thousand years of Christianity, where did they go? To libraries. Conversely story sustains paper. Whenever I use paper in a wall piece or sculpture, even if the pages are blank, their meaning comes from the long torrents of stories invisibly engraved on their surfaces.

Why a haunting? Well, back to water. Every great work of art is a sort of Christ. It mysteriously appears, it is mysteriously relevant, it mysteriously, eventually matters a lot (and because it matters, often gets chopped up and defiled by greedy institutions). It haunts our world. The great dancer Rudolph Nureyev was haunted by a painting in the Louvre called The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault. Last semester I had a student who was haunted by the erotic paintings of Gustav Klimt. Thanks. Because of you I have a five-foot poster on my living room wall. What is it about paper, its fragility, its translucence, its water-birth, that of all materials that I know and love makes it the most mysterious and as such the substance that best retains, like a baby god, the thumbprint of an archetype, the #mystery of its inception?

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