Portrait of the Paper Artist

Art lovers in Bulgaria currently have the chance to see work by Mount Holyoke professor Rie Hachiyanagi in the inaugural International Paper Art Biennial. The festival, which features large-size paper artworks from artists around the world, is spread out in exhibitions throughout Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, at both indoor galleries and outdoor installation sites.

Hachiyanagi’s contribution—titled Ma: Air—is part of the Paper Fest 2011 exhibition at the National Gallery for Foreign Art. The title refers to the Japanese concept of “ma” which encompasses both time and space. The word “time” in Japanese translates as “ma that times,” while “space” is “ma that spaces.”

Ma: Air features hundreds of handmade paper sheets that Hachiyanagi has hung and overlapped to cast translucent light and shadows that embody the space. “They also create various flows throughout the exhibition space,” Hachiyanagi explained. “‘Ma’ is defined only by what is not, yet it is not void or silence.”

“In Japanese, when we write ‘person’ and ‘ma’ together, the word means ‘human,’ ” Hachiyanagi continued. “This installation series attempts to turn the ‘ma’ of a location into an expressive pause that is resonating, experiential, and palpable.”

The Paper Fest exhibition, which will be on display at the National Gallery in Sofia through June 30, features contemporary art pieces that are concerned with the planet’s health and explore the possibilities of paper as an eco-friendly art material.

In the exhibition’s printed program, one of the show’s curators, Daniela Todorova, called Hachiyanagi’s Ma: Air “a true extravaganza of lights, shadows and papers flying in space, creating surreal and mystical dimensions." 

The larger International Paper Art Biennial that Paper Fest is a part of features the work of nearly 100 artists from 36 countries and six continents.

"It meant a lot for me to be selected for the biennial because it was my first truly international exhibition of this scale," Hachiyanagi said. "I met many amazing artists who use paper as their artistic medium, and conversation with them was fascinating."