The Revenge of Paper (Gallery)

Text by Alexandros Papadopoulos

Why does paper matter? How can a small gallery develop a big idea?

The opening of a new art-space in Manchester, the Paper Gallery (, provides peculiar answers to these questions. Set in an industrial chic street, Mirabel Street – a passage way squeezed between city centre and Salford – this room-sized gallery stages a multidisciplinary obsession with the artistry of paper:  as soon as one enters the tiny space, the lines of interrogation multiply. How can paper be used in a functional, visual, playful, conceptual, provocative, documentary, accessible, affordable, dangerous and sexy way? Is paper-based imagery still alive after the death (?) of painting?  Can paper orchestrate new forms of art-attacks within the ordinary, the mundane and the domestic?

The works on display flesh out a panorama of responses to these aesthetic challenges. Three-dimensional web avatars are framed within painting portraits (David Hancock). Sexualized paper-bodies intersperse with the photographic images of human flesh (Dawn Wolley): if the former points playfully towards the representation of a simulation (a ‘paper’ version of the web), the latter underlines the simulation of a representation (mass media fantasies enacted through paper- bodies). Visual attacks on documents, words and diagrams transform the institutional, the functional and the informative into emblems of the oneiric, the uncanny and the poetic (Alice Bradsaw ,Philip Davenport, Julie Dodd, Bethan Hamilton, Naomi Lethbridge, Leanne Richardson). Devoid of their use-value, micro commodities (imprints, notebooks, cups) are turned into art-fetishes (Richard Shields, Jenny Steele). Self-portraits of performance artists open visual windows into un-worldliness, animalism and spirituality (Anna Puhacca, Nicola Smith, Miranda Wall). Finally, landscapes of motion, action and memory develop into manifestos of presentness, absence and emptiness. (James Moore, Simon Woolham)

Positioning the artworks within drawers and walls of the microscopic compact room, the gallery-space becomes in itself a reflection on ‘paper-ness’ and illusion: evoking simultaneously the intimacy of a domestic room, the commercial simplicity of a gift-shop and the creative energy of a studio, paper-gallery ultimately becomes the spatial simulacrum of paper-construct. In this imaginative space, paper is not meant to ‘represent’:  it rather transcends the conditions of representation. In other words, it is not a dream-world made out of paper. It’s a paper-world disguised as a dreamscape: a micro-monument that exposes, haunts and celebrates the cheap and recyclable materiality of dreaminess.

Dr. Alexandros Papadopoulos is a cultural theorist and performing artist based on Manchester. Check his post-cinematic poetry on

Published 16.08.2012 by Bryony Bond

410 words