Monday, July 17, 2006


An origami blog had better be a goad to productive work—or else it’s mere reporting, and there are plenty of people who can do a better job at that than me. But sometimes events won’t leave you a clear mind or heart for work; and then words aren’t a bad substitute. Words—the right words—something more than the inarticulate ‘Wow’ that a new piece or display elicits for itself (though the wow is crucial). Words that strike home; words that infuriate; or melt hearts; words that can trigger in oneself or another an active investigation—on a sheet of paper, not leaving it to a lazy eye to drift along these sentences—: Is it like this, or is it like that?

I started talking about categories of sculptural origami a few posts ago, but by no means have I done justice to all that’s happening out there in the world—happening now, as I speak, wasting time on this computer that’s probably better spent on a sheet of paper.

So far the ideas have been these. There is a way of folding that highlights the ‘paperiness’ of paper. I noted the fan-shape as an example; but also I think one of the reasons people harbor a secret fondness for origami bats has to do with the flat expanse of paper draped between those thin spans—the paper turning into skin, which in fact it always was; and then the little folds gently marked to indicate a fragile body, just a hint of bone or tendon, doing the evocative-body work that origami does so well.

But you can also fold ‘against the grain’ of paperiness, by shifting the stress to the three-dimensional. Here there is ‘flat’ three-dimensionality, with flat surfaces bounded by straight lines (at the limit, at right-angles to other surfaces); and then there is ‘curved three-dimensionality, when the surfaces are not flat, and especially when the surfaces meet each other along clearly marked curving lines. In the latter the mind gets confused about what it sees, thinks it is looking at a solid object.

Clearly missing from this list is work of the sort pioneered by Giang Dinh. I will speak of its expressive potential some other time; for now let’s just consider the medium, the look of this sort of folding.

This is a kind of hyper-wet-folding; but strangely it does not (to my eye) produce the kind of heightened sense of paper that simple wet-folding does. The paper stays visibly a surface, something thin, but it has lost all of its Will-to-Flatness. Lacking any angularity, it does not look like carved plaster or stone either. It has no edges (except the cut edge, which is extensively used being the only real line). It is everywhere continuous, fluid surface. It begins to look like frozen fabric. Like a cloth napkin, perhaps, that you’ve twisted around your finger in a moment of boredom at a dinner party—into a puppet; now it has a hat, a little head poking out; look there’s its cape, with a nice dramatic swirling motion (and now everyone is staring at you). –Anyway it demonstrates that a ‘feeling of two-dimensionality’ or rather ‘lack of body’ can be achieved in a 3D object without the use of flatness, something I would not have expected. The 2D-3D boundary still holds some surprises, it seems.

As to expression, I’ve looked closely at Giang Dinh’s work for the first time today (excuse me readers while I discover America), and some of it is quite moving. I mean, a way has been found to make expressive, individual, reflective art--that usually means to me good faces--and also to suggest movement, drama, powerful bodily motion. Sometimes there is too much drama in the swirling capes and hooded figures, too much clothing or surface and not enough stuffing (soul, body, individuality) inside--but never mind. It is different; it is not easy; and it is this man’s own style, which he has taken very far. I notice also that in recent work he’s taken up the question of combining different styles in one piece—that is, combining fluid-folding (let’s call it that, instead of hyper-wet-folding) with the more mainline origami technique. Yes: that’s the natural and right thing to do at this stage.

Obviously much more needs to be said about Giang Dinh and expressiveness, but at the present I am just noting categories.

I am itching also to talk about the person who seems to be moving fast and far on all fronts toward an expressive origami—Daniel Naranjo. Actually it is not just expressive paperfolds that he is exploring but the whole idea of origami as a special channel for emotive communication. But the time is not yet ripe for remarks or analysis. Daniel is smack in the middle of a creative surge--he too picking up the idea of combinations--and words from an outsider now would only interfere. Readers will have to content themselves for the time being with what Filipe Moreno has written on his blog and with Daniel Naranjo’s own autobiographical comments there. With all due respect to these authors: those accounts are insufficient.

Beersheva, Israel