New exhibition at Paradigm explores the possibility of paper

“pa•per,” a collection of designs curated by Paradigm co-founder Jason Chen, features the paper-based works of more than a dozen artists from around the globe through May 18.

Rosa Leff, Sorry Not Sorry, 2019, hand-cut paper plate, 12” x 12” (Photo courtesy of Paradigm)

Conventionally, paper acts as a carrier for various forms of art.

Whether a canvas for oil paints or a sketchbook for drawings, paper rests at the core of many creations.

But, in its latest exhibition, Paradigm Gallery and Studio, 746 S. 4th St., has cast the substance as the star medium of the show.

As a material attainable virtually anywhere in the world, the new exhibition, pa•per,” a collection of designs curated by Paradigm co-founder Jason Chen, features the paper-based works of more than a dozen artists from around the globe through May 18.

Seeking to make alternative forms of art convenient to a broad scope of audiences, the new exhibit satisfies the very purpose of Paradigm, a Queen Village space that was founded almost a decade ago.

“Our mission at Paradigm has always been trying to make artwork accessible to any people…we think accessibility,” Chen said. “So, a lot of it means we don’t charge an admission fee and, also, we want to showcase a wide range of techniques and different kind of art to our audience and to whoever comes in.”

Chen, a Philadelphia-based photographer and native of Guangzhou, China, says he’s always had a fascination with the inventive potential of paper, such as its worldwide attainability and malleable nature.

For the past few years, Paradigm has participated in the four-day Art on Paper Contemporary paper-based fair in New York City, which runs annually in March.

Inspired by this year’s event, Chen wanted to recontextualize the medium in his own space while also concurrently giving a platform to artists beyond Philadelphia, as the exhibit encompasses the work of individuals never featured at Paradigm before.

“We want to expand our horizons a little bit and create more visibility for other artists and for ourselves and for the medium,” he said. “…It’s a very diverse group of artists that bring in different types of art and subject matter.”

After researching paper polymaths through social media, Chen assembled a breadth of creators from Europe to the Middle East who each approach the material using varying methods.

One of the exhibition’s portions includes an ongoing project, “730 Days of Miniature,” by India-based artists Nayan and Vaishali. The works are the product of four to six hours of meticulously crafting miniature paper birds.

In another, Baltimore-based artist Rosa Leff, a member of The Guild of American Papercutters, Two of Leff’s, utilizes a single sheet of paper to evoke designs of fine china plates through a project titled “Dinner’s On Me,” and “Sorry Not Sorry.”

(Left) Sally Hewitt, Paperback, 2019, cartridge paper manipulated using needles, bodkins and embossing tools, 12 x 10” (right) Nayan and Vaishali, Impala and Red-billed Oxpeckers, 2019, layered cut paper and watercolor, 9x 9 cm. (Photo courtesy of Paradigm)

“A lot of techniques have already been done. It’s just how different people pursue the technique and how they bring their vision forward,” Chen said. “It’s just using some of the techniques that anybody can do, but through practice and through exploring, they’ve kind of made that into their own technique and making it their own to create these pieces.”

Whether a bird or a plate, the spectrum of subjects comprising the exhibition, Chen says, is a testimony to the versatility of paper as a medium.

Striving to boost its outreach to both artists and audiences, Paradigm is working to achieve this goal with  pa•per,” as the gallery unifies individuals hailing from different techniques, trainings and even countries through one material.

“There’s certainly a lot of different compounds to make paper,” Chen said. “And there’s a lot of different types of paper, and that itself is certainly interesting. That itself can already elevate the medium itself to have more variety and give artists more flexibility to turn it into their own tool to make it what they want to express.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit 

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