Zoe Bradley's paper sculpture works are declarations of love: to life and its regenerating force, to nature, to the medium itself, simultaneously soft and incredibly challenging, and to the very act of creating. Bradley's designs are a form of reverence, inviting the viewer to be in equal awe of the capacity for utter beauty and perfect symmetry of the natural world.
Nature and fashion inspire Bradley: both are volcanic, untameable, fierce. The artist seems to thrive in the midst of magnitude and uncontainable energy, and she responds to all of it with graceful, patient cutting and folding, in the attempt not to tame the force of nature, but to join it. Shape, movement, and colour are essential both in nature, and in fashion, and these are central to Bradley´s creations in the latest installation at Galeria Melissa, titled Neon Garden.
Elena Stanciu: When/how did you start your work with paper sculpture and what inspires your designs?
Zoe Bradley: I collaborated on a series of showpieces for the AW 05/06 collections for Michiko Koshino. I created six showpiece dresses of vast scale working in paper and felt. This was the first time I sculpted paper into a wearable garment so I’ll always remember it for that reason. At the end of the show we had a standing ovation. Fashion is my biggest inspiration and is what spurs me on. I look to couture and advant garde fashion for inspiration.
ES: Your designs are often very architectural and installed in public spaces with a lot of people traffic; how do you work space into your designs and creative process? How do you balance the urban, constructed space with your very soft, nature-inspired creations? Do you seek harmony, or rather to surprise people through the clash of the two?
ZB: The challenge of working in public spaces is getting the silhouette of the piece perfectly framed in the setting. My works draw upon an organic element and the setting affects the overall silhouette. I work instinctively in the space, so there is a harmony but a surprise in the work.
ES: How do you define luxury? What is, in your view, the relationship between luxury and beauty?
ZB: I see luxury as defined by attention to detail and craftsmanship. It’s when there is a perfect harmony between detail and finish.
ES: You are clearly influenced by nature, but there's also a lot of symmetry and careful planning in your work, a sort of taming of nature. What's the ratio of free-flowing creativity to millimetric planning? Do you ever feel limited by such a demanding medium?
ZB: My work is drawn from nature and the natural rhythms in nature. There is always an element of symmetry in my work, from the floral elements to the overall silhouette of the piece. I look for balance and natural patterns. I work rather instinctively with the paper than mathematically; the flow of the piece is important to me so there is life and movement in the silhouette.
ES: Your work celebrates the beauty and sophisticated possibilities of paper, a material which, it´s fair to say, is losing terrain to modern technologies. Do you employ any digital resources in your work? How do you engage with this tension between mediums?
ZB: I employ laser cutting, die cutting for the scale of the pieces but these parts are always hand sculpted to give the human touch. I strive to echo natural line in the paper and bring a sense of poet line to the work often imitating nature.
ES: How much time do you spend on average on a design? Do you ever consider the ephemerality of your works? What happens with your installations in the longer run?
ZB: The design process comes very quickly as research and planning of production need the most time. There is a sense of giving birth to an idea. Some pieces can be on display for a short time for some clients and we have to be aware of humid climates. However, most of the pieces come back to our archive storage, as I hope to revisit them in the future for a retrospective exhibition.
ES: Working with paper seems to me a very feminine creative activity. Do you every consider gender in your process?
ZB: My work is very feminine and fluid, but I don´t actively integrate gender as a source or foundation for inspiration.
ES: What should visitors expect from your latest installation at Galeria Melissa?
To be amazed, moved, and touched by the scale of the pieces and find a sense of escapism and a feeling of renewal within the space.
ES: What new work are you preparing at the moment?
ZB: Well, Christmas is not far away!