Chien Chung Wei Watercolor


The Insistence on One Sheet of Paper

一籃蘋果 A Basket of Apples  53×37 cm 1996

When I was around grade three or four, for my birthday, I asked for a little money from my father to buy the very first book in my life—“Origami Games.” In retrospect, the insistence of that ten-year-old boy on purchasing an origami book that used only one sheet of paper (instead of cutting and gluing multiple pieces of paper together) is rather curious to me.

To resolve the limitation of using only one piece of paper, and to create more details to make a more “realistic” origami work, some origami artists would resort to cutting and gluing. Because “origami” in Japanese literally means “folding paper,” as a little boy.

I would not condescend to these beautiful realistic “origami” which, to me, should not even be termed origami. Instead, I was more fascinated by works made from only one sheet of paper that “suggest” a bird or an animal. Of course, as a little boy, I did not understand the concept of realism or abstract art. I just simply felt that it was more “interesting” to make something with one single sheet of paper without cutting or gluing. Not cutting or gluing certainly poses a limitation, but it is also a principle that defines the core value of origami as an art form.

An origami animal made from one single (usually square) sheet of paper requires specific folding methods for specific parts of the animal, and specific ways to connect the different parts together. When you unfold an origami crane for example, the dozens of creases suggest where the head and wings will be. The creases on this square sheet of paper are the structure of this crane, and the “life code” of it too!

The same principle can be applied to painting: the crane is the subject, the paper is the medium, and the folding methods are the techniques. Each technique has its own purpose; when well incorporated within the innate limitation of the paper, an interesting simplified and abstract pattern will naturally occur. The purpose of painting is not to achieve a realistic image, but to produce an image with structure, interest, and life code where art becomes immortal.

In retrospect, that little boy’s insistence and attitude toward origami might have sown the seeds to why I have never taken the path of contemporary installation art or mixed media in my twenty plus years of a visual art career.

(Translated by Arianne Guan Toleno)







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