critical texts


Paper in the Art Market
Juan Teódulo Vázquez Martín

In many encounters with art collectors and gallery owners from different countries, mainly Latin-Americans, they have showed reluctance to buy paintings made on paper (card or cardboard) on the grounds that these materials are not lasting, fragile and ephemeral. They are right, but only halfway. The ones responsible for these opinions are we, the artists, for creating this controversial, sharp prejudice against paper. I have been in favor of paper as a fine material to paint, draw or print on, as well as in favor of the participation of the artist in the production of paper using traditional methods, all these as a means for aesthetic expression. Those who have had the chance to visit or study some of the most important museums of Oriental Traditional Art in China, Korea or Japan, as well as any other museum about Oriental Art in the West, must have surely seen that the master pieces of this art, most of them reflected on paper, have been preserved until present-day in prime condition, despite these works date from several centuries ago.
There are different art galleries exhibiting drawings and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Miguel Angel from Italian Renaissance made on paper made of rag, which have been preserved strong and resistant until nowadays. Oil on paper paintings made by Rembrandt, Hans Thomas, Delacroix, Holbein the Young and many other artists from that time are irreproachably preserved. Edgar Degas (1835-1917) made tens of paintings on paper; Degas was a pioneer in using paper to give final expression to his work, and not in sketches for future works to be reflected on other materials like canvas, walls, etc., thus giving paper its own importance.
Some of us, the Cuban artists, have been the greatest responsible for the terrible state of preservation and deterioration of significant paintings made during the last thirty years. Some out of technical ignorance and others out of financial problems; taking any card from an unknown origin, ignorant of the irreparable consequences; in many cases in a hurry for reflecting some idea, thus breaking the qualities and limitations any material has, either card, canvas, etc.
In the market there is a wide range of papers, cards and cardboards exclusively for painting of the highest quality and very expensive, manufactured by the Fabriano house founded in 1275-76 in Italy; by James Whafman’s factory, founded in 1757 in England, and other internationally famous labels.
It has not been my intention to paint on paper as a means of expression the way Picasso, Braque or Juan Gris did in 1912, by cutting out rolls of paper imitating wood and pasting them on charcoal drawings; or they way Matisse did it in 1914, “cutting out directly from the color”, like he said; or the way Joan Miró did it in 1980 at Barker’s workshop, drawing directly on a mass of wet paper, producing unique works; or the way Nelson Domínguez have done it, using paper paste in different surfaces and to fill spaces.
For several years I have been working on high quality card, provided by friendly hands, of which I have been able to enjoy its fragility and texture, which helps me to shape the exploratory directions of the expressive fitting, without forcing its delicate, noble nature, in an evident internal expressive relation between figure/ background, line/form, color/texture and idea/matter, to get a disturbing metaphoric reality, going beyond the poetic speech, and increasing the activity of the pictorial surface, which gives a dense, thick matter.
June 18th, 1995. Juan Teódulo Vázquez Martín.