Barbara Czparan’s Sculptural Games
Barbara Czapran’s sculptures emanate a physical intimacy as well as oddness and strangeness. This is because the soft forms are recognizable without direct reference to objects in reality. Nevertheless, the sculptures seem to inhabit a natural presence, as if the materialized forms have actually existed once before. The sculptures are made from corrugated paper that is normally used for packing and protecting objects being transported. This quite naturally leads one to reflect on the meaning of the fact that the actual packaging materials have become works of art and are themselves being transported to exhibitions with the utmost care.
Even though Czapran’s art currently reflects an expanded sculptural concept, her works often manifest a dialogue with traditional sculptures. This is evident in the great store Czapran still sets by the artisanship inherent in her works. She herself believes that the time-consuming process of forming the various sculptures is an essential ingredient in what she calls “wandering in the form”. The process of gluing together the thin strips of corrugated paper is both demanding and time-consuming, a process which can lead to a certain shifting and change from the original concept of the form. The sculptures are often the result of a process that originates from several sketches and drawing studies. Consequently, the drawings can be seen as extensions of a physical and intuitive investigation of the form as well as a record of the experience of wandering in and out of the form.
The corrugated paper strips that are joined together manifest a special surface texture that has associations with skin-like structures and organic materials. In the same vein, one can say that the works maintain an associative relationship with the traditional sculptor’s occupation with the human body. However, the conceptual dimension being very much a part of Czapran’s sculptures, the spectator is forced to think deeper over the form’s meaning and existence. Her fantasy is no less vibrant in her creative and wily use of the titles: a spectacles-like form is called Try to look through the form. Another detached tube-like form has the title: Disconnecting from the form, and the work I am trying to come out of the form becomes immediately more lively and human for us, when we connect the title with the form.
At the beginning of the 80s, Czapran got involved with performance. At the same time, she began to research the potential of using paper material as sculptural expression. A period of study at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London in 1987 was critical in the further development of her art. There she continued her work with performance and theatre and was further encouraged in her fascination with the body as material in and of itself and its similarity with the different types of pliable material, e.g. paper.
In London she got to see the new trend in British sculpture at first hand and attended the exhibitions of Richard Deacon, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor and Cathy de Monchaux, among others. The British artists’ free use of materials and forms confirmed and strengthened her belief that it was also possible to use paper material for her sculptural expression. The little paper boat from 1987 was the beginning of Czapran’s use of paper as sculptural material. The sculpture is a paper boat in bronze on top of a high column. On the floor around the column there are “real” paper boats. In the contrast between the real and the false (albeit raised) paper boat, the work is an eloquent, ironic statement on the “self-importance” of classical sculpture.
In the mid 90s, Czapran made a series of sculptures shown at the Kunstnerforbundet in Oslo, in which all the works had the title Natura morta. The massive forms were made in corrugated paper and reminded one of natural forms from the sea, i.e. conch shells, starfishes and octopuses. The sculptures were placed on the floor and walls, and they created a dramatic universe that brought out Czapran’s previous experience with theatre and performance. The way the exhibition was mounted provided a scenographic shape in creating narration and movement in the aesthetics of the objects. A similar playfulness and dramatization is manifest in Czapran’s newer works, among them, a circular, open form that she has titled Vertigo. Also in this case, the title is used to emphasize the conceptual interpretation of the work, all the while creating a connection with pop-culture and the film Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. Czapran’s sculptural play with the film’s dramaturgy involving acrophobia (fear of heights) and psychedelic parapsychology is interesting. The sculpture is 140 cm in diameter and is laboriously built up with strip after strip of corrugated paper. Through simple means, the colorless form draws in one’s gaze to the dizzying and hypnotizing vortex.
Czapran’s innovative use of corrugated paper material and consistent investigation into the form are two critical traits of her sculptures, while the conceptual aspect of her works are also of great significance. Hence, she fulfills the criteria of both three-dimensional and conceptual art as described by Sol LeWitt in “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967): ´Three-dimensional art of any kind is a physical fact. This physicality is its most obvious and expressive content. Conceptual art is made to engage the mind of the viewer rather than his eye or emotions.´
Author: Kari J. Brandtzæg
Barbara Czapran’s sculptures have been exhibited at a number of separate exhibitions and group exhibitions throughout Norway the last 20 years. In 2002 she took part in group exhibitions at LNM and IKM in Oslo. In 2001 she was part of an experimetal drawing exhibition at the Reykjavik Art Museum. Czapran is educated from The Slade School of Fine Arts in London (1987-88), Statens Kunstakademi in Oslo (1980-85), Valandas Kunsthøgskola in Göteborg (1981) and the Krakow Art Academy (1977-79).
Two significant characteristics of the sculptures of Czapran, are her innovative use of corrugated paper and her consistent exploring of shape. But also the conceptional side of the works are as important. She satisfies both the three dimensional art and the characteristics of the conceptional art.