nna-Bella Papp’s small-scale works in unfired clay clear a
space for themselves. From the twenty-six year old artist’s
chosen medium, to her remarkably restrained design,
The artist’s preference for tabletop displays protects the pieces
from a reduction to mere images of themselves mounted upon a
wall. For all of the interpretation that her minimalistic pieces inspire,
however, Papp resists the speculative artistic discourse on the
intentionality of her work. “I don’t hope for anything, and I don’t
have a story to tell,” she remarks. Pausing, the Romanian–born,
Italy-based artist explains, “I mean, there are stories, but they are so
personal…I’m happy if someone can have an experience with my
work, but it’s not the same experience I have.”
A typical artwork, for Papp, is roughly 12 x 12 inches. Designs
range from a single geometrical cut-out, replaced and reworked to
achieve a particular aesthetic, to a subtle, mosaic-like pattern achieved
through a manual extraction of clay sediment that is subsequently re-
introduced according to the artist’s design.
“I like to be intrigued and surprised with what I get,” she explains.
“Curiosity drives me; I like to make experiments.” Papp’s medium of
unfired clay certainly lends itself to such experiments and surprises.
A“I’m finishing the piece, but the piece is not finished yet,” Papp elucidates. “It takes a week, sometimes more, to be completed by itself. And it’s something I’m not in control of anymore. Things change, move, and change color.”
Papp notes the host of ways that the medium can vary, some
of which aren’t visible to the naked eye. While colors range from
warmer hues, with a certain ruddiness, to purer greys and whites, the
mineral composition differs according to places of origin. The range
of colors and combinations of clay allow for a pictorial effect that
adds visual intrigue.
The pieces create a palpable physicality, yet, once dry, each remains
exceptionally fragile. This fragility plays an active role in the artworks,
evocative of the materialization of the ephemeral. Anna-Bella Papp’s
markedly minimalistic pieces offer a welcome visual respite to viewers
in their simplicity, intriguing the minds of onlookers through the
calculated subtlety of the works that are at once foreign and familiar.
Much like her artwork that is so stunning in its simplicity, Papp’s
attitudes are equally as refreshing. “It’s interesting that sometimes
people see things that aren’t there at all. Our eyes correct images,
and with my work, they associate everything. Even dusty computer
screens,” she laughs.
The intrigue of Anna-Bella Papp’s pieces is profound, while the
presence of the works alters the atmosphere in an almost architectural way that is surprising, given their subtlety and scale. Visitors
experience the works rather than observe them. “They should watch
the piece, and not the artist,” Papp explains. We agree, Anna-Bella. P
BY SARAH VULKALOVIC
OF NOTE: VISUAL ARTS
ANNA-BELLA PAPP IS DRIVEN BY CURIOSITY
TO CREATE UNFIRED WORKS IN CLAY.
Clockwise from left: Portrait of Anna-Bella Papp. Anna-Bella Papp, Untitled, 2014, clay, 11 x 10 ¼ x 1 in., courtesy of the artist and Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London,
© Anna-Bella Papp. Anna-Bella Papp, Untitled, 2013, clay, 11 x 9 ¼ x 1 ½ in., courtesy of the artist and Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, © Anna-Bella Papp. Anna-Bella Papp, Untitled, 2013, clay, 12 ½ x 10 7/8 x 5/8 in., courtesy of the artist.