Hand Deckled Paper A Fascinating Canvas in Street Art

Hand Deckled Paper A Fascinating Canvas in Street Art

, by Bobby Banks, 3 min reading time

Hand deckled paper has a rich history, originating from a technique where paper edges are torn rather than cut, giving them a feathered and uneven finish. While hand deckling was once seen primarily as a method to produce traditional and classic stationary or fine arts, its textured, organic feel has increasingly been adopted by pop, street, and graffiti artists. The use of this type of paper provides a unique tactile quality that contrasts sharply with the often raw and energetic nature of street art, creating a mesmerizing juxtaposition.

The History of Deckling and Its Modern Revival

Hand deckling paper's origins are grounded in the ancient paper-making process. As artisans formed sheets from pulp, the paper's edges were often left uneven and rough, a signature that would later become synonymous with handcrafted, high-quality paper. However, as time progressed and paper-making became more industrialized, the rough edges were seen as imperfections and were often trimmed away. It was the street artists of the late 20th century who saw potential in these discarded edges. Artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, who frequently employed unconventional materials in his works, started utilizing hand deckled paper. The ragged edges, when combined with street art's rough, unrestrained brush strokes, brought a surprising refinement, reminding viewers of the artist's deliberate choice in medium.

Basquiat and His Affinity for Textured Canvases

Jean-Michel Basquiat, a forerunner in the street art scene, frequently incorporated mixed mediums into his art. His decision to use hand deckled paper wasn't just about aesthetics; it was about sending a message. By blending the fine texture of deckled paper with the chaos and color of his works, Basquiat conveyed a juxtaposition between the refined and the raw. The message was clear: art can be both wild and sophisticated, and the canvas can tell a story as compelling as the artwork itself.

Street Art’s Embrace of Deckled Edges

As more street artists began to see the potential of hand deckled paper, it became a canvas for many. Not just for its textural allure but also for the narrative it added. Street art, often seen as rebellious and transient, found an unusual home on the pages of hand deckled paper, historically linked to permanence and luxury. Shepard Fairey, known for his iconic "Obey" campaign and Barack Obama's "Hope" poster, is one such artist who has used hand deckled paper in his works. Fairey’s stark, propagandist style against the feathery deckled edges creates a visual tension that has become part of his signature style.

Deckled Paper in Graffiti: Beyond the Walls

Graffiti, unlike other forms of street art, is primarily known for its existence on public walls and train cars. However, as graffiti artists started to gain recognition in the art world and exhibitions became more common, there arose a need for a more portable medium. Artists like Banksy, famous for his satirical and subversive street art, began to incorporate hand deckled paper into his repertoire. Using this medium allowed graffiti artists to maintain their unique style while providing art pieces that could be displayed in galleries or private collections.

Why Deckling Resonates with Today’s Artists

Beyond the aesthetic appeal, hand deckled paper speaks to the modern artist's ethos. In a digital age where everything is polished and precise, there's an increasing appreciation for the imperfect, the tangible, and the authentic. Hand deckled paper embodies these attributes. Its rough edges remind us of the human touch involved in its creation, a stark contrast to the pixel-perfect images of today's digital era. Moreover, for street and graffiti artists, who often work in environments where their art may be erased or painted over, the permanence and legacy of hand deckled paper offer a chance for their messages to endure. In conclusion, hand deckled paper has made a significant mark in the world of street, pop, and graffiti art. What was once seen as a hallmark of traditional artistry and refinement has been reclaimed and repurposed by modern artists, becoming a canvas that tells its own story even before a brush touches its surface.

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