Sally Blakemore’s Artwork in Shanghai International Paper Art Biennale

BAG Artist-in-Residence Sally Blakemore is one of 100 paper artists who were invited to submit their work to the 2021 Shanghai International Paper Art Biennale.

The theme of the Biennale is “Feasts on Paper,” focusing on paper as contemporary art against the backdrop of the pandemic. The Biennale opens September 25 and includes an exhibition, a seminar, an International resident creation project, and a series of cultural and artistic activities (theme handicraft workshops, on-site cultural activities, parallel exhibition, Environmental Art Market, etc.). The themes of the three exhibition areas will be intertextual, sharing faith, and strength for the global fight against the epidemic.

“The pandemic that began at the end of 2019 has sealed each individual in an independent space, while at the same time being engulfed in a closely related human community,” note the organizers. “This is an era full of various uncertainties and possibilities. Questions about oneself, the space, and the world are endless, and the meaning of existence and unbounded love emerge. We need paper art more than ever. As an outlet for expression and writing, it comes from life and is a daily poetry regained in the world’s great torrent, and it shows a great love that connects everyone while bringing hope to each other.

“The Biennale will present various thoughts of artists around the world concerning the epidemic, nature, life, promising hope, and great love. The paper that has always written history will continue to write in the form of contemporary art at this moment, taking the real-time picture of epidemics and the river of consciousness. At the same time, we are able to swim through the cold winter and head toward the next spring, along with the soft-yet-tough power of paper.”

Sally’s book is “History Mountain,” which she describes as a “matriarchal/patriarchal look at human adaptation to change, both gradual change and catastrophic change.” The book contains four spreads; on the back of each is a visual warning or subtext to the topic in the spread.

  • Spread 1—PreHistory represents the Earth before technology. A humanoid emerges on the right wearing a spiritual costume.
  • Spread 2—Discovery of Fire represents the power of control and the resources found in this discovery of energy. How to use it is the real education and the responsibility it requires.
  • Spread 3—When a Bird Saw an Airplane is the view through Nature’s eyes. How long does Nature take to adapt to human-made detours and inventions?
  • Spread 4—Technological Blight represents a positive thing in a blighted world: that humans continue to search for beauty and energy. These include beauty products, commodified for markets, and found beauty, which is free to the self-educated and in the eye of the beholder.

The materials that Sally sued include watercolor, handmade papers, inks, acrylics, photocopies, acetate, jute, paint, Tyvek, Mylar, fabric, cover board, and tape. Her cutting methods include laser, plotter, hand cutting, and paper engineering. (Click on images below to enlarge; use back arrow to return to this page.)

Sally drew her inspiration from authors and cultures:

  • Oliver Sacks (Migraine, Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) was a brain specialist and author who wrote case histories on brain anomalies like migraine aura and how resilient and flexible the brain really is.
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and Homo Erectus.
  • Work of the Dead by Thomas W. Laqueur is an astonishing history of human remains, just how they were disposed of and made sacred, from the Neanderthal to modern humans. Burials reveal so much of how cultures adapt and change.
  • Stiff, a book by Mary Roach, is a modern look and an update onthe understanding of remains and their value to science and art.
  • The Chinese Blue Willow Legend as shown on the manufactured dinner plate porcelain.

Here’s the video of the opening day (Sally’s book is shown at :55): There may be additional videos on the YouTube channel later:

The Biennale is under the guidance of the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism, the Organizing Committee of the Oriental Beauty Valley Art Festival, and the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, with several sponsors including the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists. For more information visit