From Iceland — The Transformative Quality of Paper: 'Lignin' Sheds Light On Matter

The Transformative Quality of Paper: ‘Lignin’ Sheds Light On Matter

Published July 12, 2018

The Transformative Quality of Paper: ‘Lignin’ Sheds Light On Matter
Christine Engel Snitkjær
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Have you ever wondered about the process that a sheet of paper goes through before it becomes the sleek piece of A4 we all know so well? Have you considered the A4 sheet to be a tree, its original form?

The independent Harbinger art gallery currently hosts an installation by the Irish artist Adam Fearon that addresses these questions, and more. The exhibition consists of sculpture, prints, and reliefs, all focussing on the nature of the page, paper, and the image.

On transformation

John Holten and Guðrún Benónýsdóttir curated the installation. “The ground idea is… not to define anything,” Guðrún says, thoughtfully. “Rather, it’s this idea of transforming your thoughts into matter. It’s about transformation.”

“The ground idea is… not to define anything. Rather, it’s this idea of transforming your thoughts into matter.”

Guðrún explains how the act of defining an object limits that object. By labelling an object, we ignore its ever-changing nature, and how the transformation of matter is constantly taking place around us.

Take, for instance, a piece of paper. We define it as a piece of paper, even though it was originally part of a tree. By labelling the paper “paper,” we infuse it with new life, and its function takes on a new meaning. It no longer functions as a tree, but as a surface for writing, drawing, painting, printing, etc. We often forget how objects change functions and transform throughout their life-spans.

Disturbing the surface

The exhibition, entitled ‘Lignin,’ attempts to shed light on this contrast between defining matter in a single form, and understanding how matter continually changes, even in subtle ways. Starting with a raw piece of papier-mâché, Fearon marks and manipulates the surface in an unplanned way, according to his own intuitive process. “It’s about the little choices we make out of instinct,” Guðrún remarks. “He is playing with his ideas. He ‘disturbs’ the surface, in a way.”

Fearon uses his hands to make the raw material of papier-mâché something different—or more—than it was before. His visible interactions with material take centre-stage; his choices becoming visible traces of an action that transforms the medium, giving it a new life, just like a tree takes on a new function when it becomes paper.

Berlin and Iceland

Guðrún is an artist herself. She’s based in Berlin, where she mainly focuses on the production of artist books. She reflects on the differences between Iceland and Berlin. “It is very easy to get to know a lot of connections in Iceland,” she says, “because you are meeting them again and again. It’s more work in Berlin. I think people form groups and work together there; here, I always know people.”

Guðrún will spend the summer in Iceland as the ‘Lignin’ exhibition continues through July 22nd. After this date, the gallery itself moves on, when Adam Fearon’s exhibition will be replaced by the work of Norwegian artist, Arild Tveito.

Info: ‘Lignin’ is showing until July 22nd in the Harbinger gallery at Freyjugata 1.

Please visit the following websites for more information:


´uns Artbook Publication

John Holten’s publication Broken Dimanche Press

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