23 Questions with Richard Deacon

“Beware of the Dog” at Singapore Tyler Print Institute is presenting 76 pieces by Richard Deacon  from his five-week residency there. It includes marbled polygonal paper columns of folded paper, relief prints, woodblock on kozo paper, paper works, and shaped handmade paper collaged on screen printed paper.

Had you worked on paper before?
I’d made some sculptures in the early ‘90s that had paper, but I’ve never worked with handmade paper before. And I’ve never used paper for such a big body of work. In fact, I’ve rarely done exhibitions that are material based, most of the exhibitions I’ve done have had a big mixture of materials, so this is probably unique.

What were the challenges?
Because I’ve always used paper as a dry material, and never as a wet material, I was quite cautious about putting colors into the wet surface. It took a while to get the confidence to do so. This unfamiliarity with the wet material led me to push it around a bit too much initially.

What were the overarching ideas for this body of work?
The invitation was to come here and just work and see what happened. I had some ideas about folding before I started, and a couple of days before I came here, I saw some hazard warning tapes which kind of tied in with some drawings I’d done. And in my mind there is some link between the pattern of the warning tape and folding.

With the series of 19 paper sculptures titled “Housing” you are revising previous shapes you’ve created in ceramics and steel?
Working with these kinds of forms started about five years ago with folding cardboard, went to steel, became clay, and now have become paper. Here, both sides of the paper are marbled before they are folded so that there is a choice about which side is out and which is in, and (it’s also) about sequencing of colors.

What about the series Konrad Witz where you used crumpled handmade paper?
These shapes don’t really resemble any of my works. They started out with quite big pieces of paper and some ended up quite small, so there is something about compression, which I think is interesting, reducing material by compressing it. I’ve never done this before. Most of the times I stretch materials.

Is this something you would like to explore again?
Yes, I think it would be quite interesting. There is also the ambiguity at the end of the material here which I find quite interesting.

So what have you learned during this residency?
A lot about marbling (laughs).

And what did you enjoy the most in the process?
It fell into two parts. The rigor and control of doing the early works (inspired by the hazard warning tape), the patience needed to do the woodblock, using such a simple technique for such a complex image made out of photocopies. And in the second part: the teamwork to get the marbling done. Over two weeks it was kind of an everyday performance.

What are you working on now?
A cornice for St. James’ Gateway in Piccadilly, (London) which is being put up now. It’s not a million miles from the folded columns.

To read the rest of the 23 questions, go to ARTINFO