It is best to assume that experience comes from experimentation, and not the other way around, and it would be rare to find someone more qualified to testify to that than Ian Wright. The plethora of work that has come before his latest show as artistic ambassador to the paper-makers Keaykolour, is a spectrum of process, passions and of course, colour. So you can forgive the title of the show – metaphorically, literally – Colourful Life sums it up pretty nicely…
Blast Design, working on behalf of Arjowiggins Creative Papers, chose Wright for Keaykolour because he combines a genuine passion for tactile, high-quality materials with a boundless appetite for experimentation. His fascination with re-using and recycling also dovetailed with the paper’s remarkable sustainability. For the Colourful Life show, he has created a series of pieces using cut, torn, folded or sculpted paper to turn cultural concepts into tangible tributes.
Of all the many media he has worked with to date, it’s paper he has an affinity with. Wright doesn’t re-appropriate what is expected of a material or medium. His experimentation is as much to do with our expectations of what a humble piece of paper is capable of, as it is to meet with an aesthetic end. The subject matter plays itself out through his own anchor points of experience – a mix of music, “street culture” – as much urbane as urban – and art.
In one piece, the inanimate material is printed and torn, layered and written over – an overall homage to the 7 inch single and its sleeve – reminiscent of an overplayed, much-loved record where the lyrics are irreparably etched into your brain. Except this etching is the print on the paper using the negative space of the master plate, i.e. the song.
The piece next to it is a altogether more careful; crafted strips, folded and symmetrical making the equally iconic form of a boom box. Finally, the coup de grâce, the man Ian Wright first saw on telly with his mum and dad, except this time Jimi Hendrix is hundreds of brightly coloured cones set perfectly into perspex.
When we went to see him setting up the show, Ian was talking about how a couple days before in his shared studio, they didn’t have a stylus for the record player so they made a paper funnel and dropped a pin in the end. I forgot to ask if there was a connection but it’s easy enough to make one.
What’s brilliant about this new work is the playful attitude, the lack of pretension and the genuine enthusiasm for its subject matter which is as it ever was. Even better, if you can track back for however long it is he’s been doing it, the priniciples underpinning it are the same: “I’ve not done this before, regardless of how experienced I am.”
Colourful Life is at Shop 25 @ The Old Truman Brewery until Sunday.
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