GF Smith and Hull City of Culture
Extensive research was undertaken to aid in the inspiration and guidance of this bespoke paper sculptural piece. With regard to Hull’s vast historical roots focusing on the industrial heritage and the infamous fishing industry Paper Cod was born.
The Yorkshire City was up until as recently as the 1970’s one of the world’s major fishing ports- to not pay homage to this would have been unthinkable.
Its fishing industry had its beginnings in the 21st century, with a long and proud trawling tradition that spiraled into decline after the British fishing industry became a casualty of the stained relations between the West and the Soviet Union.
Defeat in the Cod War was catastrophic for ports like Hull and in high-sight it is easy to see how devastating it was. What started as a trivial argument about fishing zones was actually a more serious matter with potentially devastating consequences.
Due to the historical and cultural importance of events such as the Cod Wars which contributed to the end of what was not just one of Britain’s leading ports but one that had global influence, it was of vital important to include some sort of reference to this and to the desolate side of how the situation affected the many residents of Hull.
Wanting to pay tribute to Hull’s cod fishing industry, past and present, Lazerian began the month-long process of creating a 4-metre-long anatomical codfish constructed entirely from paper.
Taking all this on board it was decided to create the fish as an abstract character and to expose its more vulnerable side- much as what may have happened to the fishermen of the 1970’s.
It reminds us that skill craft and creativity, coupled with something as naturally beautiful as paper can leave a powerful and lasting effect.
With this in mind the initial design concept of the paper fish sculpture was designed to have half of the side of the fish exposed and its internal organs visible. Each of the fish’s organs is created using a different colour (chosen from the extensive 50 shades available from the Colorplan range from GF Smith)
The exhibition was curated by leading paper company and Hull residents GF Smith. GF Smith is a century old creative paper company and curated 8 leading UK creatives to design and make anything they wanted as long as it was using paper. The exhibition was displayed as part of Hull City of Culture and involved other artists such as Max Lamb and Bethan Laura Wood, some of who don’t use paper as their usual medium
The paper Cod is cut open on one side exposing its brightly-coloured organs within – a scarlet red skeleton and canary yellow brain. Meanwhile, its scaly exterior is made using realistic pale cream and brown tones of paper.
The other side was handcrafted fish gills individually glued on to create an almost life-like effect with the gills looking very realistic especially when viewed from certain angles. To create the life- like effect Lazerian took advantage of Colorplans wide variety of embossed styled of paper and used a leathery texture (morocco) to emphasize the scales and a granular finish for the skeleton structure within.
Previous to the exhibition teasers of paper fish and chip boxes, also made by Lazerian, were strategically placed in the windows of various Fred Aldous stores in the North. Not only did this advertise the City of Culture and GF Smith exhibition it also teased at what was to come from Lazerian. It was also a nod to the North and Lazerians ‘proud to be Northern’ approach.
“My ethos as a designer-maker and artist is to combine digital technologies with handcraft,” says Hopkins, who used a “mixed bag” of tools and techniques to create the sculpture, including a laser cutter, a flatbed plotter, traditional scalpels, scoring aids and glue guns. “I’ve worked with paper professionally since I started the studio 11 years ago,” he continues. “Over time, I’ve learnt ways in which to add strength to paper. It’s all about understanding its grain structure – it has a long and a short grain – much like wood.”
As well as producing the giant cod, Lazerian was also on site during the exhibition serving up paper fish and chips from his mobile workshop which takes the form of a converted 1950s Citroen HY food truck van. With its corrugated sides, and service hatch, the vehicle is the perfect base from which to serve the paper meals. “The workshop is something that I’ve been creating for the last four years,” explains Hopkins who is crafting each serving from a rainbow of different Colorplan shades. “We’ve got both laser cutter CNCs and traditional cutting tools on board.”
Having learnt about the decline of Hull’s once booming fishing industry and the knock-on effect it had on the city, Hopkins was heartened to find that Hull is home to one of the best fish chip shops in the country. (Papas was named Britain’s Best Fish and Chip shop by BBC 2’s Britain’s Best Takeaways) “That made it a full circle,” he smiles. “The Marina is pretty close to the Humber streets and I wanted to bring that sense of community into the installation and for it to reach a new audience – not just those working in art and design.” The result is an experience that brings people from different walks of life together to share and celebrate this unlikely icon, the local cod.