Extraordinary Paper

Dating back to 2nd century China, paper is among the oldest mediums in art. It is extraordinarily diverse, linking drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, paper mache, photography and even sculpture. For some artists, paper reflects the machinations of their minds, operating as the support for preliminary studies or sketches. With the birth of collage in the twentieth century, however, paper became a medium in and of itself.

Clockwise, beginning from top left: Michael Kirkman 'Untitled (Unmasked)', Elizabeth Ginsberg 'Untitled', Charles Blackman 'Reclining on a Spring Day', Artist Unknown 'Abstract Yellow Curves', Robert Jacks 'Fall Obliquely Against the Lamp Light'

For collectors, paper is both its own destination and a gateway into other realms. American artist Agnes Martin’s gentle drawings are bonafide masterpieces, reaching millions of dollars at auction. In Australia, the medium is honoured each year with the Dobell Drawing Prize, eliciting marvellous feats on paper from across the country. Generally however, paper is more accessible than paintings on canvas, offering an entryway for emerging collectors or those looking to expand their holding of a specific artist or era. 

Paper sits between the irrepressible and precious. It’s the medium we all see most often, the support for our own doodles, ponderings and reminders. In the context of fine art, it has thrived for centuries, offering unexpected freedom and flexibility for artists. In the margins of their work lie clues, disruptions and calling cards, Easter eggs for collectors to discover. Despite its tenacity however, it’s worth remembering that as a substance, paper is delicate. For those who wish to protect their works on paper, avoid direct sunlight and humidity, and frame well. With care, this familiar yet mighty medium can inspire for generations. 

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