Paper Cuts

This essay was written to accompany PULP, an exhibition featuring Kelly Jazvac, James Carl, and Michael Doerksen. 4x8_5x7 and Plot, two books featuring the work of James Carl, are available on our publications page or in our resource centre.



by Dannielle Hogan

Paper is a more conspicuous material than ever these days. The ubiquitous mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle skips repeatedly in our heads as we search for ever more efficient ways to correspond, dispense information, and read books or the news. The Open Space exhibition PULP features work by artists Kelly Jazvac, James Carl, and Michael Doerksen, who use paper as a primary medium in the production of their art. The resulting exhibition touches on a broad scope of contemporary issues and ideologies ranging from the deceptive nature of advertising to conceptual abstraction.


Kelly Jazvac finished her MFA at the University of Victoria in 2006 and is now based in Toronto and exhibiting widely. She began her sculptural works with paper by enlarging patterns that she found on the website Those sizeable early works include a replica of the DeLorean and Part of the Enterprise influenced by the cult classic Star Trek series. Celebrated psychoanalyst, theorist, critic, art writer, and performer Dr. Jeanne Randolph describes Kelly Jazvac’s recent work, Upgrade (a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire transformed to look like a Porsche 911), located in the Toronto Sculpture Garden:  “As Cinderella in reverse, this car is just not a car. It is a talisman of modernity and modernization. This sculpture shines a light on the gulf between advertising hype and implacable necessity.”1 Randolph’s notion of Cinderella in reverse is perhaps an apt observation regarding all of Jazvac’s works. Their facades are deceptive, and the sculptures’ apparent modernity falls sharply from grace as Jazvac allows their true identities to be revealed.

Lack Upgrade, Kelly Jazvac, 2007

Jazvac’s current work in PULP, Lack Upgrade, is a piece constructed out of IKEA™ “Lack” coffee tables and laminated ink-jet prints. The 8.5 x 11 sheets of tiled paper have been taped together to form, in effect, a slipcover resembling a high-end stainless steel Miele™ dishwasher. Jazvac explains that all of her sculptures “depict objects that embody a desire for improvement. They are representations of longing and aspiration, be it for time travel or a new noiseless dishwasher from Sears™. [And] like any consumer product, [they] have the ability to both delight and disappoint.”2 Much of Kelly Jazvac’s work is labour intensive and evokes both a sense of futility and of dedication to craft. Her finished works have a certain slickness to them and appear industrial rather than handcrafted. However, it is where we see that the paper seams don’t quite line up or where a zigzag edge of tape shows that we are reminded of the futility of the proposed objects. They are paper. They will never wash our dishes or transport us to another time zone, and that distinction is important to Jazvac. Beyond the intriguing appearance, this work reminds us of the hollow reward that accompanies the acquisition of so many of the objects we as a society covet.


Woodgrain, James Carl, 2007

Acclaimed Toronto-based artist James Carl exhibits internationally and has been using paper as a means of sculpture since at least the early 90s. Carl’s work appears in private collections across North America and as far abroad as Germany and China.3 His work Woodgrain, featured in PULP, relates closely to Carl’s earlier work accommodation (shown in 2002 Mercer Union, Toronto, and 2003 Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Open Space, Victoria). In the essay “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” writer Robin Peck insightfully describes Carl’s accommodation work as “The flowing hallucinatory clouds of simulacra that make up wood grain patterns [as] conventionally sure signs of an apparently natural rhythm.”4 In PULP, Woodgrain is a wall-sized black and white wood grain pattern printed onto 11 x 17 sheets of paper and pasted in a grid formation on the gallery’s long back wall. It could be argued that Woodgrain is simply wallpaper. However, it is Carl’s combined selection of imagery and scale that push this beyond the parameters of a simple wall covering. It is self-referential and subversive in its simplicity.


“I once was quoted as saying my objects aren’t ‘about’ anything—that their relative worth might be measured in terms of their ability to inflect or infect a given situation or viewer. They are definitely objects, but they are also contingencies: things whose ‘social life’ is central to their conception.” James Carl 5


Carl’s works are never overtly political; rather, they beg contemplation, revealing themselves slowly.


In 1999 Michael Doerksen completed a diploma in fine arts from Camosun College in Victoria. He graduated from Concordia University in 2004 with a BFA, majoring in sculpture, and he is also a member of the touring band Sunset Rubdown. He currently lives and works in Montreal.


Yamaha Macaw, Michael Doerksen, 2007

Akin to a life-sized pop-up from a children’s book, Doerksen’s work in PULP, Yamaha Macaw, is a yellow paper motorcycle engulfed by twenty-one blue paper macaws (tropical parrot-like birds). Forgivably, the first thing that comes to mind might be a scene from Hitchcock’s cinematic thriller The Birds. However, Doerksen’s purpose in combining the two seemingly unrelated subjects is to address a far more political ideology. In correspondence with Open Space (not originally intended for publication) Doerksen states that “an absurd tension lies in Yamaha using the image and knowledge of rare animals to endorse products that still depend on the depletion of the environment. This tension is made physical in the paper being used to print out the advertising paper craft at home by the consumer.”6 As with Jazvac’s work, Doerksen has specifically selected objects of desire for his paper crafts to address ideas surrounding society’s contradictory notions of consumption and progress. Doerksen explains that “the sculpture is intended to lay bare the tense relationship between the environment and corporations, or more broadly, technology and nature.”7 Experiencing this work, one is left with a compelling impression of the fragility and impotence of product persona.


Be it the soft fleshy part of a fruit or a shapeless mass of ground wood, PULP is sharp artistic output. Collectively, the works of Kelly Jazvac, James Carl, and Michael Doerksen inspire in their rawness, intelligence, accessibility, and deceptive simplicity.


1.    Dr. Jeanne Randolph, “Read Car,” published in promotional brochure by Toronto Sculpture Garden for Kelly Jazvac’s Upgrade (2007).
2.    Kelly Jazvac, artist’s statement (fall 2007).
3.    James Carl, CV as published in Plot (Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Open Space, Victoria, 2003).
4.    Robin Peck, “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” published in Plot (Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Open Space, Victoria, 2003).
5.    Exchanges between James Carl and Christina Ritchie, published in Plot (Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Open Space, Victoria, 2003).
6.    Michael Doerksen, correspondence with Open Space curatorial assistant Ross Angus Macaulay (2007).
7.    Michael Doerksen, correspondence with Open Space curatorial assistant Ross Angus Macaulay (2007).