Andrew Ooi creates complex, colourful geometric artwork out of Gampi paper, a Japanese handmade tissue-like paper made from the bark of the Gampi bush. The paper is not industrially manufactured or produced, so Andrew must get it directly from the farmer who harvests it in Japan.
The artist receives sheets of paper sized 16’ x 24’, which he meticulously cuts into small 2’ x 3’ strips. Each small paper sample is then folded into the desired shape, unfolded, hand painted with acrylic and ink, then folded again into its original shape. The individual pieces form a tongue and groove like structure and then join other identical geometrical structures to build up the entire piece. Hundreds of small Gampi paper strips go through this process, and his pieces take anywhere from a week to three months of continuous, daily folding, unfolding, painting and folding to create.
Andrew Ooi has been folding paper for over 15 years. He started doing origami in the subway, and eventually started to fold full time. Trained as an illustrator, his artistic talent is evident in his work. His pieces are elaborately coloured and decorated, and they appear as if they have been deliberately made. But Andrew admits that there’s a trial and error element to his art. Making mistakes and figuring out how to fix them has created a special connection between Andrew and Gampi paper. After hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of folds, Andrew knows each crease, corner and side intimately. Years of honing his craft has allowed Andrew to develop a deep understanding how colours and shapes negotiate with each other through the folds.
After hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of folds, Andrew knows each crease, corner and side intimately.
The process to make his works of art is tedious and repetitive, but the artist describes it as therapeutic. I suppose there is indeed something cathartic about working a frail piece of paper in your hands and joining it to others like it in order to make a strong, unusual, foreign and organic looking structure. But this also creates contradiction in his work. The patterns he produces on the paper seem like they’ve been applied with mathematical precision, yet in fact they are often the product of familiar, repetitive hazard.
The sharp edges and geometrical shapes are made by human design, but they are reminiscent of patterns found in nature such flowers and vegetables bearing Fibonacci’s sequence. By blurring the lines between what has been made on purpose and what is a natural occurrence, Andrew Ooi solicits the viewer’s curiosity and wonder, and invites us to question what we perceive.
You can see Anatomy of Resilience at the Karsh-Masson Gallery at Ottawa City Hall (110 Laurier Avenue West) daily from 9am-8pm until April 18, 2018. Admission is free and the gallery is fully accessible. Andrew Ooi’s work can also be seen at L.A. Pai Gallery (13 Murray Street). Follow Andrew on Instagram or Twitter and check out his website.