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2023 WR Exhibition Boiler-1.jpg

Paper as the Material Idea and Vision

by Chunbum Park, July 9, 2024

Melissa Dadourian
(From left to right) Grid Arrow (36h x 32w in), Olive Bump (33h x 30w in), Fallen Tower (31h x 32w in), Head to Head (39h x 21w in), and Yellow Corner (33h x 33w in)
Embossed pigmented cotton, 2024
Courtesy of Dieu Donné, New York

At The Boiler at ELM Foundation, the Workspace Residents of Dieu Donné; Katie Bell, Cecile Chong, Melissa Dadourian, and Baris Gokturk, are all exhibiting works that explore the boundaries of paper... paper as a material idea and vision.


Just as space and time combine to produce spacetime in physics, materiality and conceptuality merge, resulting in materiality based on ideation and vision, and vice versa. This merger is different from the traditional materiality of paper in the sense that the materiality of paper was originally limited to the role of the supporting material and/or found objects (like newspaper collages, as in Rauschenberg’s work). The artists in the exhibition arrive at the material idea/vision, in which paper is a material that becomes the paint strokes, the abstract forms, and the symbolic imagery.


What is paper? Is it just the surface onto which we apply colors and graphite marks? Is it merely a fabric onto which we engrave illusions and abstractions like carving of objects and events within spacetime? Or does the fabric of spacetime... or the fabric of paper contain energy and meaning within it as well? How does the exhibition titled, “Object/Boundary,” differentiate between traditional paper collages and newer aspects that are found within the material idea and vision of the paper?

Just look at how Katie Bell achieves abstract shapes (whether it is pure abstraction or nonobjective art, it is unclear) as in “Finding Form (Yellow)” (2024) and “Finding Form (Blue 2)” (2024). They are reminiscent of Kandinsky’s abstract compositions and the Suprematist painter El Lissitsky’s Proun series. Snippets of finely cut geometric pieces of paper are collaged on top of one another, alongside embossed cotton (paper). Is paper equivalent to flat fills of paint or marker strokes? In Bell’s works, the way abstract forms are achieved, whether through the collaging of paper, the embossing of shapes, or drawing with marker, is entirely unpredictable and improvisational. There is no differentiation between the support material (like canvas or paper) and the medium (such as paint or marker), which allows the paper to interact with and impact the visual and conceptual aspects of the work, directly, rather than within a hierarchy (of the paper as the support material underneath the paint layers, as found in painting).

2023 WR Exhibition Boiler-7.jpg

Katie Bell
(From left to right) Finding Form (Blue 2) (29.50h x 21.50w in), Finding Form (Yellow) (29.50h x 21.50w in), Embossed Triptych (Green, Blue, Yellow), Finding Form (Green) (21.50h x 29.50w in)
Embossed cotton, found paper collage, and marker, 2024
Courtesy of Dieu Donné, New York

Cecile Chong’s debossed cotton paper records trace and likeness of the ornate patterns from furniture and household items of her family home in Quito, Ecuador in three dimensions, despite its 2-dimensional format. The works, which could be considered low-relief sculptures, include “PENDANT #5” (2023) and “CREST #4” (2023). The handmade paper’s rich color and texture complement the beautiful patterns and symbols debossed into the paper, with a sense of ethereal and atemporal space within the realm of memories. These material qualities of the paper directly contribute to the visual experience and the conceptual reading of the work.


Melissa Dadourian’s work is perhaps the most representative of the concept (of the paper as the material idea/vision) since the artist shapes the paper from the onset to present relationships of abstract shapes and colors. Dadourian argues that her work is feminizing traditionally masculine structures as found in Brutalist architecture; while the feminine energy is there, the morphing and distorting of the original reference makes it hard to see the work as something beyond pure abstraction with feminine energy. Her works include “Olive Bump” (2023) and “Fallen Tower” (2024), which are reminiscent of Elizabeth Murray’s sculpturally shaped paintings. She utilizes paper as both the support material and the colors that are applied to the support material there is no distinction in terms of this hierarchy in her work.

At first glance, Baris Gokturk’s work appears to be the least correspondent to the concept - it is easy to assume that Gokturk utilized the paper as a support material, and then applied the image on top. However, Gokturk experimented with paper pulp through the process of building up and carving, as well as stencils and silkscreens. This very fact of buildup and carving disrupts the hierarchy between the support material and the mark making which would sit above the support material. The very fabric of the paper is both material and idea…. the material idea like space-time… makes the work’s visual presentation and meaning concrete.


Through the approach of the material idea, paper is not just a material for writing or drawing on. Through the works of the artists in the exhibition, the paper becomes the very art object that it sought to give support to.

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Baris Gokturk
(From left to right) 18°07"58.7"N 66°42""48.5"_04, 18°07"58.7"N 66°42""48.5"_02, 18°07"58.7"N 66°42""48.5"_01, 18°07"58.7"N 66°42""48.5"_03 (all 15h x 12w in)
Abaca, pulp paint, over cast cotton, 2024
Courtesy of Dieu Donné, New York

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Cecile Chong
PENDANT #3 (30h x 22w in)
Handmade debossed cotton paper with encaustic, 2023
Courtesy of Dieu Donné, New York

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