Paperwork: a revealing insight into creative minds

The pages of a scrapbook can narrate some revealing outpourings, showing the minds and processes of an artist in all their formative, messy glory.

William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, Untitled (scrapbook 3)

Source: Courtesy Andrew Roth and PPP Editions

William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, Untitled (scrapbook 3)

Sketches, doodles, jottings and cut-and-pasted images indicate much about the artist’s thoughts – more so, we reckon, than their 21st century counterparts such as Tumblr and Pinterest.

A new show at London’s ICA is to celebrate these wonderful, chaotic journals – showing scrapbooks from artists including   Brigid Berlin, William S. Burroughs & Brion Gysin, Isa Genzken, Gerhard Richter, Jean-Michel Wicker, and Karin Schneider.

Jimmy de Sana

Source: Courtesy Andrew Roth and PPP Editions

Jimmy de Sana

The exhibition, Paperwork: A Brief History of Artists’ Scrapbooks, opens next week at the ICA’s Reading Room, and is curated by Andrew Roth and Alex Kitnick.

Jean-Michel Wiicker, Novolino

Source: Courtesy Andrew Roth and PPP Editions

Jean-Michel Wiicker, Novolino

‘If the conventional scrapbook originally was a place to store memories, the artist’s scrapbook often trades in nascent ideas, both visual and textual, which may or may not grow into a more finished work’, says the ICA.

‘Such books allow an informal view into the process of thinking that goes before making; the collecting that comes before facture.’

Brigid Berlin Our Guests 1968-72

Source: Courtesy Andrew Roth and PPP Editions

Berlin

ICA curator Matt Williams is overseeing the show, which appeared in its first iteration at New York’s Printed Matter fair.

Jimmy de Sana

Source: Courtesy Andrew Roth and PPP Editions

Jimmy de Sana

‘The material is fantastic’, says Williams. ‘The idea of a scrapbook feels quite democratic – it’s accessible to everyone, so there’s an affection there and no real “art hierarchy” like you find with some other types of work.

‘A scrapbook is almost diaristic in a sense – it’s a release of ideas and a documentation in a casual fashion, rather than in a framework of a final sculpture or something.’

Isa Genzken: I love New York, crazy city

Source: Courtesy Andrew Roth and PPP Editions

Isa Genzken: I love New York, crazy city

According to the ICA, the show’s title, Paperwork, hints at the idea of scrapbooks as a tool that helps artists ‘forge an intimate artistic identity, in opposition to the bureaucratic, administrative papers that provide official identification.’

Paperwork: A Brief History of Artists’ Scrapbooks runs from 1 April -11 May at the Fox Reading Room, Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall, London, SW1

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