Page 10 - Anne book

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of ongoing research that began and continues with travel
projects. Each trip provided, and still does, the opportunity
to encounter new skills. She studied the major printmaking
techniques. She learned to weave. Perhaps this phase culmi-
nates with the publication of her books about weaving and
the commission to make a tapestry of Saint Elegius - patron
saint of veterinarians - for a veterinarian in Jutland.
Later she turned to paper, and her career developed as
surely as did her technical understanding of the material
and the possibilities it could offer to a serious artist. In the
early eighties, she was awarded several travel grants and
went to the United States. She spends enough time in New
York City to check out the scene; but her creative drive soon
has her hard at work discovering new techniques for making
art. She studied papermaking as a craft and as an art form,
taking classes and participating in workshops across the entire
country, from SUNY Buffalo to the California College of Arts
and Crafts.
As soon as she began making her own paper, she was able
to appreciate and exploit its rich possibilities as a medium.
Primarily this meant going beyond the traditional use of
paper as a surface to draw, paint or mark upon. Nor did she
ignore the potential of paper as a three-dimensional medium.
Her growing technical profciency (nourished by visits to
Italian and Swiss paper mills in 1984) leads her to set up
a papermaking studio in Hestkøbgaard, Denmark. Nance
O’Banion travels from California and stays three months.
They create the frst papermaking courses in Denmark to
focus on handmade paper as an artistic medium. Vilsbøll
becomes sought after as a teacher.
Among the many qualities of Anne Vilsbøll’s mature work is
its resistance to photo-reproduction. No photograph can lay
bare the structural principles of her images. Nor can it do
justice to the surface of the work. A photograph cannot even
give much information about the shimmering colors in her
paintings, which are harmonious human-scale compositions,
let alone express the scale of the large and complex décors
that she executes for public commissions.
So what do we see when we look at Anne Vilsbøll’s work in
its physical presence? We see its materiality; and if we pay
attention we see that this material is paper. Anne Vilsbøll has
been working with paper for three decades. Precisely, she
works in paper. The high color, elegant composition, and
delicate touch of Vilsbøll’s work renders it readily appealing;
but appreciation of her oeuvre is enriched by understanding
how she has mastered the craft of paper-making in order to
claim it for herself as an artistic medium. This long appren-
ticeship transformed her into a connoisseur, an ace practi-
tioner, a teacher. More importantly, it has imposed upon her
the rigorous constraints that channel creativity. All of her
works in paper have an experimental quality that is innate to
their making, for they are created of material that the artist
makes herself. This can be understood as a kind of tauto-
logical rigor: the material that constitutes the form being itself
the product of artistic imagination.
Yet, it would be reductive to pay attention only to Anne
Vilsbøll’s paper works, for their prowess rests upon a frm
foundation of skill and knowledge the artist acquired
elsewhere. Early in her career, she experimented with the
traditional tools gleaned during her beaux-arts training.
After fnishing academic studies, she embarked upon a phase
By Rachel Stella