Each handmade book in the nineteen-volume Test papers series is a collection of found drawings. In plain English, these are books made of paper rescued from the trash.
Every page was at one time a scrap of paper provided by an art supply store for customers to assess pens and pencils. By looking through these handmade books, we peer over these customers’ shoulders to see what other people do when they encounter something to write with and something to write on.
The results tend to be extremely unselfconscious. Collecting and preserving these papers harks back to the Surrealists’ interest in the art and writing produced by the unselfconscious or subconscious mind. Is it meaningful or merely nonsense?
Scraps of test paper collected from the same location over nearly a decade fell into certain patterns. Names and abstract scribbles were unsurprising favorites, but eyes proved a particularly popular subject. Self-referential or meta commentary (e.g. blue written with a blue pen) revealed the anonymous artists’ thoughts about their materials. Conversations between store patrons flirt with tantalizing near-comprehensibility.
There are even patterns in how people handle these books. At first, most quickly flip through a few pages. Then they slow down. This is a material that slowly and cumulatively fascinates. We become curious or voyeuristic, but the artists’ anonymity makes these mysteries unsolvable.
This series was on display during June 2016
at Ellis Art & Engineering Supply
(122 Broadway, Chico, California)