Andrew Ooi is a self-taught visual artist, based in Toronto, Canada. He creates sculptures and reliefs from paper developed from a long-time fascination with two-dimensional media considered in three-dimension. As a child he attended school at the city’s Ward’s Island where he spent his public-transit commute folding discarded sections of the newspaper–except the Comics. Those he read through his teens, when for an independent study, he challenged himself to learn what goes into making a printed picture by attempting to copy a famous work by a great master. He chose not one, but two artists–Albrecht Dürer and Katsushika Hokusai–experimenting with cutting, carving and etching on various materials. Surprisingly, his discovery about his natural ability for accuracy was exceeded by the one of the drawn line. Without knowing how to render and incise it exactly on the matrix, the prepared surface for printing, any produced image would be devoid of representation. For him, line, like paper, was a three-dimensional application, and if manipulated by hand–painted, cut, scored, folded–could offer the extraordinary possibilities of transforming it into a shape, pattern and form. By 2015, he began to explore just that: lines organizing and obscuring perspective of unique artworks attracting audience attention. His works have been published by Bloomsbury, Rockport, Concordia University, UPPERCASE, Dolce and more; awarded multiple grants; and exhibited in Finland, Canada and across the US including Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and New York.
My art is about making sense of the world. It is about arranging the disparate shapes and elements I perceive environments, histories, geographies, art, artistry and human nature to be made up of into tangible systems and forms. It is about occupying these realities, ideas and interests in feeling and being, to allow meaning and its significance in the long view, to develop measuredly.
The gradual understanding is determined through an unconventional approach of common mediums, techniques and design. Handmade gampi papers, produced by the few traditionally-skilled Japanese papermakers remaining, are used to make my two-dimensional sculptures and three-dimensional paintings. From large sheets, I cut hundreds to thousands of strips to form the artworks inspired by Japanese joinery and origami. I individually crease, unfold, paint and re-fold each piece of paper by hand before assembly. Using acrylics and inks, I combine colour, pattern and shape with circles, squares and triangles to create an order as natural, primitive, and in line with, ages and civilizations well before me. Geometries rooted in nature, but meant to be exploratory and story-telling; with intentional asymmetries and inconsistencies respecting life’s mystery.
And what better to answer the question of life’s mystery but time? The time for precious papers nearing extinction to be made? For matter to be considered from all angles? Welcome accidents, new information, innovation, meditation to transpire? Time is the greatest service someone can do for another; one I hope I impart with my art.