Many Worlds of Words

In Whitehorse we rarely see a group show that’s international in scope. In Words – International Exhibition of Haiku and Handmade Paper, the concept tying the works together is simple: many objects in our lives amount to words on paper.

This exhibition offers an astonishing variety of variations on this theme, from a wide variety of countries.

Some of the words are easy to read from a distance. LOVE, HOPE and JOY appear in bright colours and all caps in Ioana Stoian’s piece from the United States. From Germany, Josephine Tabbert’s wall pieces use the words ich and nie – “I” and “never” – written large and clear in black and white.

Some of the text requires closer inspection to read. An open bookwork called “All or Nothing” by Canadian Terry Ann Carter uses a flowing script. Many others use the vulnerability of a handwritten, even messy looking way of writing.

Some texts are carefully printed using a press or computer, for example, “We Insert Human Souls” by American Anne Becker, a poem on handmade paper, printed in brown ink. Canadian Gina Page uses stencilled letters. Older readers might remember these from title pages for school projects, with characteristic spaces inside the letter form. These letters and spaces resonate with the text, which mentions a “filigreed brown/lacy net.”

The show includes a variety of the forms you can put paper into. Many use some variety of book form. “Story” by Leticia Burgos of Argentina takes the form of an exploding book. Wires protrude from the pages. Words in all caps printed on deckle-edged scraps surround it.

Some pieces take a more sculptural approach. Whitehorse’s Leslie Leong contributes a round “vessel” with words incorporated into its walls. Angelica Wolpert of Germany has shaped paper into rounded pebbles and made them into brooches.

Others use aspects of a more conventional wall-piece format. Miroslawa Truchta-Nowicka of Poland has created a circle of brown handmade paper. A line of mounded, shredded, multi-coloured paper rises from a red dot at the bottom and turns into a red twisted paper cord above.

Two of the works take the form of garments. The show’s curator, Whitehorse artist Helen O’Connor, has created a bra and panties out of stinging nettle fibre, with handwriting around the chest and waist band. Susanne Cianfarina from Germany and Italy has made a “Dream Shirt” of tissue, covered in handwritten text in pencil, on the outside of the shirt.

I particularly enjoyed the poetic qualities of “Deeper” by Canadian Claudia Radmore. Waves of paper are sewn, folded and pinned. Spidery threads reach out from this mass across an indigo backing paper. Below this, each separately stamped letter spells out “night/the only thing deep enough/to hide an ocean.”

The Stovepipe Paper Artist Collective, associated with Helen O’Connor’s downtown papermaking studio, organized Words.

The opening reception will take place Thursday, May 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., to coincide with the Haiku Canada Weekend, which takes place May 20 to 22.

Words continues until May 31 at the Northern Front Studio Gallery at Waterfront Station.

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