I AM. by Keren Dobia

at The Outside Gallery

'The Paper Sculptor'

– Ray Besserdin

Ray Besserdin’s lifelong passion for paper has led to international recognition. As well as winning numerous overseas awards, including first prize for a 3D artwork in Florida this month, Ray has recently been named the Australian Ambassador for Mondial Art Academia in France.  A number of high profile organisations have commissioned Ray’s sculptures, including Macquarie Bank, Woolworths, NRMA, the Ford Motor Company and the Northern Territory Government.

Ray’s love of creating objects from paper began in childhood, when he would make models and pop-up greeting cards for his family. His parents bought him books with pages that could be transformed into models, by folding and cutting along dotted lines. This enthralled Ray, and these books influenced his future career in art sculpture. When Ray was in his late twenties and thirties, working as an illustrator and graphic designer, he discovered a sophisticated, adult version of the model book; its subject was the Titanic, and Ray could not sleep until he had finished constructing the model of the ship. 

Ray was working for an advertising agency when his skill with sculpting objects from paper came to the fore; the agency was tasked with creating a logo for a paper company. Ray envisaged a logo in his head, and created a 3D paper sculpture that led to the agency’s best-ever print campaign.  This experience indicated where his life should be heading: “My past returned to point the way to my future”.

Today Ray’s life is firmly anchored in creating art, and increasingly towards the creation of fine art.  The increasing popularity of paper sculpture has not affected Ray’s own art, and he revels in the uniqueness of his work: “I don’t want to be influenced by anyone else”.

Ray’s life experiences have combined to assist in his sculpture. His parents were artistic; his father, an engineer, was also an accomplished portrait painter; his mother was an illustrator and cartoonist, and aquarelle artist. Ray studied Biological Sciences at La Trobe University and his science degree now informs his art; his knowledge of chemistry has assisted in crafting lasting sculptures. Each sculpture begins with a detailed drawing, which Ray uses to plan how he will mould the paper to do what he wants.

Ray’s sculpting ability has evolved with time and experimentation, and he has developed better techniques.  Crucial to his work is the use of top-quality, handmade papers. “Machine made papers are not nearly as long lasting.  They’re strong in one plane but weak in another.” A friend from Latrobe University developed an acrylic glue that Ray uses to bind the paper; the glue does not interfere with the paper’s chemistry, which allows Ray’s to guarantee the archival properties of his sculptures.

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