Artist Talk with Susan Ruptash and Doris Purchase at Propeller Gallery

Susan Ruptash and Doris Purchase, the artists of the exhibition Raw Material, shared their ideas, creation processes, and stories behind their artworks during the online artists talk on November 27th. Both artists want to bring attention to overlooked objects. The gallery’s website explains, “For Susan it is viewing the paper itself as art rather than a vehicle upon which to make art. For Doris, it is highlighting the frame and supporting parts of art. The attraction is in the opposites supporting each other in the subtleness of colour or lack thereof, a love of the seemingly simple statement and presentation.”

Susan Ruptash talked about her fascination with washi. She loves its strength, its translucency, the beautiful fibers, the subtle colors, the textures of the two very different sides of the paper and in particularly the history and the legacy of washi. Ruptash said about her procedure “My work is very process based and exploratory. I usually have a bit of an idea about the outcome, but I very much let the washi sheet and the interventions that I’m putting in, take the lead into how it will turn out. I see my role very much as an enabler of the washi sheet to allow it to express itself.”

Installation view of works by Susan Ruptash at the Propeller Art Gallery

Ruptash uses traditional Japanese washi papers and follows the its traditions in making her pieces. She continued, “I have loved tearing paper since I was a child, but in particular tearing washi in a manner to really express that the fibers have a recurring theme with me. The other one certainly is layering the washi – in particular with these beautiful, fine washi that have gorgeous colors and texture and fibers – layering them in order to highlight the translucency of it.”

Susan Ruptash, 366, Sekishu-banshi tsuru washi with linen thread and red dogwood, 82 x 51 x 10 inches

Looking at the pieces it might not be apparent to the viewers that they have stories hidden in them. In Unspun Ruptash was seeking to investigate the doing and the undoing of a sheet of washi by using methods of thread spun, coloring and dying it with kakishibu; then turning the paper back into its sheet format.

Susan Ruptash, Unspun, Inshu Mitsumata 001 washi with kakishibu, 23 x 35 inches

For Waxing the artist decided to do a minimal treatment of Konnyaku starch to enhance and exemplify the strength of the washi while expressing the fibers along the edges. Creating X she used a medium weight washi that reacts to coloring unevenly. Then she cut the sheets and vowed them together and hang it in a special way.

Susan Ruptash, Waxing, Sekishu-banshi Tsuru washi with konnyaku, 42 x 18 x 5 inches (left) and X, Moriki kozo washi with kakishibu, 42 x 22 x 18 inches (right)

Doris Purchase found it “A little wild working with what I had in my studio perhaps meant to be leftovers: from starting larger pieces and from finished pieces, off cuts, frames, bric-a-brac, wires and nails.” She recognized that when the pandemic hit things fell apart. She called it ‘force limitations’ for staying in a limited space with limited supplies.

Installation view of Doris Purchase’s artworks at the Propeller Art Gallery

So, she decided to go further in a way conceptually. She explained that, she was always fascinated by “what is behind the scenes, that was always a theme in my work, bringing in from what was behind to the fore. And it’s the wire, for example, that hangs a piece on the wall that has become extremely essential and presented in these pieces. The frame, I had a lot of fun focusing on that part of the frame that you never really see.”

Doris Purchase, Raw Inside, mixed media, 12 x 15 inches

Purchase made a special piece onsite that is not for sale at the Propeller Art Gallery. She said: “I wanted to do a piece on location since it’s very rare that you get to have such a great space to work in. I was like, oh, I just must, build something right here on the wall. So, if I was to take it off the wall, it would really fall apart.” You can watch the video of Purchase making this artwork here.  

Doris Purchase, installation with the piece made onsite (left) at the Propeller Art Gallery

Purchase said, she was focusing on these otherwise hidden materials which real purpose was to hold the canvas, to hide the raw edges. “That is something I’ve been focusing on in these pieces and that I do leave it to you all hopefully to make connections. And specifically, if you have felt this way during the pandemic, perhaps a little raw at times, and noticing things that are revealed, I hope you can connect.”

Doris Purchase, Guide, mixed media, 25 x 10 inches (left) & Star, mixed media, 12 x 10 inches (right)

Zhiyi Fang

Images are courtesy of the Propeller Art Gallery

*Exhibition information: Raw / Material, Susan Ruptash & Doris Purchase November 24 – December 5, 2021, 30 Abell Street, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sun, 1 – 5:30 pm.

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