Woman Crush Wednesday: Paula Riff
Interview by Yanika Anukulpun
I see all of your photos are the different organic form of leaves. Could you tell me the reason why did you choose to create the leaves as your main subject?
I walk on a daily basis and on these walks I collect all different kinds of natural objects. I have tons of notebooks filled with leaves and other things I pick up during these walks. It is not a particular kind of leaf or grass that I am drawn to but its shape or form and shadows it produces. I am constantly thinking of how an object will look like a photogram and how I might change it to appear more abstract. I find solace in the natural world so for me it is like bringing that solace and beauty to what I am making.
As you mentioned that, you are influenced by the artists such as Moholy-Nagy, and Mark Rothko. Could you talk about how they inspired you for this project?
Mark Rothko is one of my favorite painters. I look at his work and I become completely lost in the beauty, his usage of color and paint on canvas. I have many of his artists books and often look through them for inspiration. However, there is nothing that compares to looking at his paintings in person, for me it is similar to a spiritual or emotional experience, or like falling in love.
Mololy-Nagy is such a versatile artist. He experimented with color and light and space and was not tied down to one particular mode of art-making. He is another art hero of mine whose work I look to for inspiration.
How can you choose the colors on each one? Could you talk about your process of selecting colors?
I put a lot of thought into the colors I am going to use for each image but in general, it starts with some combination of cyan, magenta and yellow. I will sometimes start with the first layer of cyan and then add multiple layers on top of that. I like to experiment to see how different colors react on top of each other and though I refer to a color wheel for some guidance I often disregard any particular order. At this point, I have some idea of how colors will turn out with multiple layering but there are surprises with different hues of blue or red and so on. Gum printing can be very finicky and some colors coat more easily than others and that sometimes dictates where I go when adding layers. I try to mix things up but I definitely visualize color combinations before I start.
What would you say is the hardest part of your process while creating this series?
Gum printing is a time-consuming process. It often takes days to complete images to my satisfaction using multiple layers of chemicals and paint. Sometimes things don't work out as planned during the process after lots of time has been spent so it can be very frustrating.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach one, one – hour class on anything that would it be?
I also marble my own paper and have used that in combination with other series. There is a Japanese marbling technique called “Suminagashi” where inks float on top of the water to make unique designs that are then transferred to paper. It is easy and at the same time complex art making technique because one has to learn to let go and sort of “flow” or be one with the water and ink. This is a cool class or demo to teach.
What is the most played song in your music library?
“At the Purchaser’s Option” sung by Rhiannon Giddens. I am not a religious person but the lyrics to this song are so powerful. “You can take my body, you can take my bones, you can take my blood but not my soul…”
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
RBG - A documentary on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is a real hero of mine as she continues to fight for gender discrimination and women’s rights.
How do you take your coffee?
First cup with creme, second cup black.
For more photos please visit Riff's website.