Untitled 04, Marcelo Solá, 2017
mixed technique on paper, 56 cm x 77 cm (22 in x 30.3 in)


Vitamine A: Technique...on paper, by Ricardo Fernandes

Caveman, our early ancestor, used drawing on the walls, painting figures and symbols, which are used until today to study human evolution, being one of the great milestones of our history. Such drawings recorded the customs, communication and presence of a particular group in a place, certainly also having decorative features. Among many aspects, cave drawings and paintings demonstrated the human expression and particularities of each group. Maintained for many centuries, this technique gradually found other forms of expression, leading man to paper, a material that prevails today as the main medium of human expression through writing, drawing and photography.

If we take the history of the paper that was created in China in the 2nd century BC, during the reign of Emperor Wu for the packaging and conservation of luxury objects such as delicate mirrors, decorative pieces and jewelry, we note that at that time, the Chinese packed their objects with large leafs made of rice, later discovering that the paper would also serve for many other uses. Initially the production of paper in artisanal scale was done in the service of the nobility. Around the same time, the Chinese began to stick rice papers on the walls of noble residences, setting up partitions, separating and creating new environments in the same residence. The paper used, until then made only of rice, was kept in its natural color and without decorative details. Subsequently, the same rice paper began to be produced with a new vegetable parchment mixture, which brought more strength and elasticity to the material, further increasing its range of utilities. The vegetal parchment would bring to rice paper a greater resistance to the paints and materials used for painting and the paper gained colors and motifs, always hand painted by artisans.

Over time and in the midst of a revolution in paper production in China, stamps were created, which on wood soaked in natural ink would print various motifs on paper.

The strips resulting from this print work were glued to the walls, replacing the original strips, and the papers were used as ornaments for the Mandarin and wealthy merchants, and were considered a very luxurious decorative material.

Pioneers in paper technology, the Chinese only transferred their knowledge to a foreign country in 604 AD, when their expansion into Korea began.

It was not until the year 1120 AD that paper finally arrived in Europe, through Islamic Spain, brought as a luxury material, adorning palaces and residences of the nobles and royal families of the time, and expanded to a variety of other functions. gradually used for the art of the time and as a support for artistic expression. In 1588 AD the first European paper mill was inaugurated in England, producing a line of luxury and paper utilities. England began its paper production in Cambridge and printed its first multicolored papers in 1750 and in 1783. At that time the so-called Royal Manufacturing already employed about four hundred artisans. Chippendale, inspired by French rococo, has become London’s best-selling and most sought-after paper in a great varied. In 1814 came the printing machine, created by Konig, innovating and improving the papermaking process. Konig’s machine accurately spread cotton and silk fibers over the still fresh paint, resulting, for transparency and overlap, in raised motifs. Thus came the so-called flock. Queen Victoria flocked the walls of Hampton Court to her honeymoon with Prince Albert …

Of course, with their Chinese origins and at the height of the Chinoiserie fashion, the most expensive and sought after motifs were Chinese motifs, depicting country life, life in China’s big cities, Asian natural and floral themes. At that time it was the French Royal House most commissioned papers for its walls, through its decorators who adorned palaces and mansions, often with exclusive motifs. Louis XI commissioned angels on a blue background from Jean Bourdichon, Louis XV demanded papers with strong rococo influences from Jean Pillement, and Louis XVI decided to abandon the Chinoiserie fashion once and for all, creating French motifs with entirely European romantic or classic themes. In 1770, a factory of painted and flocked papers was inaugurated in Paris, and in 1870, Juan Zuber inaugurated in the French city of Rixheim a wall paper factory that operated until 1939, where various dye printing techniques were perfected. It was the Zuber mill that also launched the first roll with over four linear meters of ready-to-use paper.

From the 2nd century BC until the period historically called Contemporary, paper maintains its egemonic place, dominating various sectors of artistic expression and culture, remaining as primordial to the dissemination of art, literature and photography. Young artists who are still adept at supporting their creations, invent new processes, work with mixed techniques, collages and a wide range of creation, not giving up the material, even in the 21st Century, even facing so many new materials and technologies. Street art, drawings, sculptures, photographs and various media still rely on paper as one of their main materials and attest that paper can be considered one of the most important materials of our era and that accompanies us in history, with no date set to leave.


Ricardo Fernandes, 2019
The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), New York, United States of America
Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art (AICA), Paris, France
Association for Art History (AAH), London, United Kingdom