"The process of making these sheets of paper was very meditative and physical."
In Raoul's new series, each sheet of paper is artist-made. His process begins with hand-selected abaca fibers which come from the abaca plant, a relative of the banana plant native to Southeast Asia. The fibers are cooked to soften and break them down into a more malleable substance. They are beaten into a pulp either by hand or mechanically (sometimes both) before being pulled into individual sheets.
The process of breaking down these natural fibers results in paper that is a lot stronger and harder to tear than, for example, mass-produced printer paper. When the paper is complete the fibers are still distinguishable, bringing a natural quality that serves as a reminder of the journey and process of its creation.
Following this, the pulp is placed in a large vat of water and pulled up from the water on a framed screen. Excess water is squeezed from each sheet before it is laid flat to dry. Once dried, the paper is coated with a layer of size (gelatin) to protect against oil absorption in preparation for when paint is applied.
Want to learn more about fibers used in paper making? Check out this information-rich article from Mother Earth News.
"To me, papermaking feels a lot like cooking."
IN THE STUDIO
"All that process came before I started painting and the act of painting felt like the last step of garnishing a dish."
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Raoul Olou is a multidisciplinary artist who grew up as a Beninese national in French-speaking Senegal. He has spent the last nineteen years as an immigrant living and working in six different cities: Dakar, London, New York, Paris, Montreal, and is now based in Toronto.
Concepts of nationality, citizenship, race, identity, and archiving the mundane are core themes that Raoul explores in his work.