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"Paper is like the earth on which something can grow"

In conversation with the Paper Art Award winner Aja von Loeper


The artist Aja von Loeper is represented in the exhibition Seduce me, paper with her "White Leaves", for which she received the Bronze Paper Art Award this year. From September her new solo exhibition will be on view at the Werner Schneider Gallery in the Venet Haus in Neu-Ulm. In an interview with the Haus des Papiers, Aja von Loeper talks about the importance of the Paper Art Awards, gives insights into how her unique way of working came about, and talks to us - of course - about paper.


HDP: Dear Aja, during our museum tours we are often asked about the technique you use to create your objects. Many of our visitors are amazed when they learn that you work on the paper with nothing more than a beech wood pencil and your own physical strength. Please tell us how you found your way of working.


Aja von Loeper:

Finding my own handwriting was a long process that began during my studies in 2000 - more precisely my own handwriting with the blank sheet of paper. At that time I developed my technique with the beech wood stylus. Before that I drew on paper. Similar to Paul Cézanne, who repeatedly painted fruit still lifes, I too was looking for my own motif. A birch tree that I discovered during my walks in the forest served as an impulse. I drew this birch tree again and again on paper formats of 100 cm x 70 cm.


However, the time back then was not easy for me and there was a lot that I had to work through internally. In this situation, I was very much inspired by the radical works of the artist Lucio Fontana, who cut the canvas with a knife. So I put the paper on the bare earth in front of the birch and started hitting it with a piece of wood until there were holes and cracks. It was very liberating at that moment. But later I realized for myself that violence is not the means that suits me. I understand paper as a body that I don't want to hurt.


In the meantime I no longer hit the paper, but the paper bulges towards me in different structures, depending on how hard I rub and press on the paper.


HDP: Your “White Sheets” received the Paper Art Award this year. What does this award mean to you?


Aja von Loeper:

The Paper Art Award is very important to me because the focus is on the paper. After all, I work with paper and not on paper, and that is exactly what this award recognizes. In addition, the award gave me a strong boost and helped me gain more visibility. This opened up new opportunities for me. The Werner Schneider Gallery in Neu-Ulm, for example, has given me a solo exhibition in two large rooms of the Venet House from the end of September. A big thank you also goes to my gallery owner Cornelia Wichtendahl, in whose gallery the exhibition "Paper Worlds" by Alexandra Deutsch and I can be seen until September 2nd.


HDP: As you said, paper as a material is very central in your work. Is there anything special about the paper you work with?


Aja von Loeper:

I worked with a certain French watercolor paper for a very long time. Always in the format 100 cm x 70 cm, until suddenly this format was no longer produced and a long process began in which I tried out many different paper types.

The watercolor paper Britannia, 300 g thick, in natural white from Hahnemühle, for example, has very good properties. I'm currently experimenting with new shades and this natural shade excites me in particular. The paper possesses a special softness as well.


It was interesting for me to find out that my technique doesn't work with handmade paper because the structures don't stand out as clearly. This is different with industrially manufactured paper. When I work with this paper, I have the impression that I am extracting the material's naturalness. Through my work process I open the fibers of the paper and it can breathe again. Something grows out of the technically produced paper, which becomes an organic body. For me, paper is like the earth on which something can grow. It almost seems as if the material is being enlarged, as if the paper is becoming "more". This creates the impression of sculptural physicality. So during the creative process I always have the feeling that I'm receiving a gift.

August 06, 2022 by Katharina Grosch

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