October 2019

Paper Angels

The Paper MillThe Paper MillThe Paper MillThe Paper MillThe Paper MillThe Paper MillThe Paper MillThe Paper MilllText: Louise McClean Images: Garry Trinh

Sydney’s Angel Place is in the heart of the Sydney CBD, a quiet little offshoot from larger Martin Place where suited business folk stride about their daily business and bars, post offices, office towers, hotels, traffic, coffees to go and the usual inner-city hoo-ha flourishes with an industrious buzz. And yet, in the midst of it all, tucked away is something quite unexpected in a way that makes you feel like you’ve struck gold. The Paper Mill gallery, founded by a handful of like-minded artists, does not function to simply to show and sell art. Instead the space serves as a hub for the artistic and larger community alike to become involved, learn, contribute and participate at a grassroots level in a myriad of paper based artwork. Louise McClean talks to one of the founders Stephanie Peters.

Louise McClean: What is the concept behind The Paper Mill Gallery?

Stephanie Peters: The concept of The Paper Mill was developed with artists and designers who are passionate about working with paper. Paper is accessible, affordable and has enormous versatility and is often a starting point for any creative project. Whether it is to write down notes, sketch, make models, mock ups or even an entire work, paper is involved in some respect. We want to pay tribute to this unassuming material and illustrate the many different uses and attributes of paper in a fine art context.

Also, obtaining a physical space has allowed us to create an inclusive environment to facilitate all aspects of paper based art. The Paper Mill’s program includes exhibition, workshops, zines, short run press and an artist books library, artist talks, art events, and residencies.

LM: The Sydney City Council had a hand in the establishment of the gallery. Can you tell us a bit about its involvement?

SP: At the start of the year the City of Sydney put out a call for an expression of interest for a Creative Hub Incubator located at 1 Angel Place, Sydney. Our idea was to promote all artists that work with paper. We really felt like it would be something beneficial to the City of Sydney. No artist run space that we are aware of has this focus on paper based art.

We have been working with the City of Sydney since the application got approval in May. Its involvement in this project comes in the form of subsidised rent for the space until March 31 next year, which is pretty exciting. It’s been a great opportunity to work with the City of Sydney.

LM: What have you guys learnt about setting up and curating a gallery?

SP: There is a great deal of hard work that goes into setting up and curating an art space. We get to enjoy seeing the shows, meeting the artists and running classes, but behind the scenes business structures are still being developed. We have all had to learn a range of new skills and techniques to assist in running a successful association. There are ongoing learning opportunities for us all with promotions, contracts, insurance, coordinating events and the safety of artist, staff and the public all needing to be organised to a high standard.

Learning to work with everyone is really important. Working in a group allows us to learn from each other, share the workload and to consider everyone’s opinions. What is really exciting about The Paper Mill is that we are able to facilitate artists we believe in. We are all getting hands on experience that we would never receive in our normal day to day jobs.

LM: This is a really hands on project, who has become involved and what kind of initiatives do you have in mind?

SP: The Paper Mill is run entirely by volunteers who all put a lot of hard work in. There are eight of us in total; Anne-Louise Dadak, Christopher Hodge, Siân McIntyre, Sandra Di Palma, Simon Greiner, Christopher James, Amelia Wallin and myself.

Our family, friends and acquaintances have been helping us with legal concerns, finance, painting, business advice, cleaning, installing shows, building walls and setting up the space and the help we have received from all of these people has been invaluable.

We also have some exciting proposals and initiatives coming up. We are in the process of organising Self Publication Month (scheduled during January). This will include a series of artist talks, information sessions and workshops covering the gamut of self publication essentials. The month will also be the launch of The Paper Mill’s very own publication, featuring a range of work from local artists and the general public.

The great thing about working in a group and being open to proposals and suggestions for all aspects of the space is that we have some really exciting proposals and ideas constantly coming up. We’re hoping to include as much as possible in to our program during our time at Angel Place.

LM: Can you tell us why the medium of paper based art particularly resonates with you?

SP: All the members of The Paper Mill are practicing artists who use paper. We collectively cover the artistic practises of designing, printmaking, drawing, illustrating, comics, sculpture and performance. Paper is the one thing that ties all our practices together. We also feel that artists that work with paper can be underrepresented in the commercial and fine art scene. It is exciting to promote and display the new innovative ways artists are using paper. We are beginning to see artists break the traditions of paper based art and really experiment with the medium.

LM: There is a Paper Mill zine library. What kinds of zines do you have and how can people contribute their own zines if they are interested?

SP: The Paper Mill encourages any form of self publishing. We love the do it yourself publication practice as it’s about getting down and doing it, putting your work, your words, and your ideas out there for the world to see. We currently stock artist works which incorporate drawing, printing, photography, comics, illustration, written word, artist books and more.

Our zine library is rapidly expanding, with all sorts of artists contributing. We will always be expecting new self publications.

LM: Right now you are having a group show, PULP can you tell us a bit about that and what are some of the upcoming events?

SP: PULP explores paper in its raw form – the place where all impressions, shapes and ideas are possible. We invited artists that we admired their work with paper for our inaugural exhibition which features artists; Dara Gill, Aldous Massie, Narlie Nakamara, Peter Nelson, JD Reforma, Leigh Rigozzi, Kate Scardifield and Mitchell Spider. This dynamic show explores the diverse possibilities of paper through video, sculpture, installation, illustration, print and drawing.

Our next show Lies/Lions/Lines brings together a diverse group of local artists who share a broad approach to ‘works on paper’. Whilst some of the artists engage directly with paper or with formal qualities of paper such as flatness and folds, others trace lines directly into space, construct installations with written texts, or even use paper to sketch and devise intricate plans to involve the viewer. Within the selection, there is a deliberate interplay between studio-based and exhibition focused practices, presenting contrasting conceptual and formal perspectives which engage a rich variety of themes and concerns.

Two weeks prior to the exhibition opening, the gallery will be used by the artists as an open studio space where visitors can witness collaborations and actions unfold first-hand. Thereby demystifying the art-making process and enabling artists to make considered interventions into The Paper Mill space itself.

This exhibition will feature Bababa International, Lionel Bawden, Bonita Bub, Biljana Jancic, Adrian McDonald, Andrew Moran, Ivan Muñiz Reed & Benjamin Warren, Tom Polo and Teo Treloar.

Lies/Lions/Lines will be collaborating in The Paper Mill from the 6th of October with the official opening on October 20.

LM: Are you hoping to continue The Paper Mill as a long-term project?

SP: We are all passionate about The Paper Mill concept. Currently, we are all volunteers and rely heavily on fundraising, sponsors, sales and renting fees to make this work. Continued support of the space and the potential for further support and sponsorship would definitely give us enough encouragement to keep working our hands to the bone for The Paper Mill and hopefully make it a sustainable long term project for years to come!

The Paper Mill, 1 Angel Place Ash St in the Sydney CBD and are open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-6pm.

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