Back in April 1980, the inventors of post-it notes may not have foreseen the product’s utility beyond a stationery item meant to organise hefty paperwork. Started as a means to get away from the scraps of paper, the sticky notes have been emerging as a contemporary medium of art.
Post-it notes have already inspired creative geniuses to feature them in various forms of art like murals, collages, mosaics, moulds, surface cover, miniature painting, sketching and drawing.
For Pakistani artist Danish Ali Meerza, what was supplied as a necessity at his workplace has turned into an “outlet to release stress”. An auditor by profession, Meerza spends his idle moments drawing on post-it notes. “I used to draw on the borders of my school books. As time passed and I entered my professional life, I realised that sticky notes were the most convenient option to use as a canvas because they are handy, practical and easily disposable,” says Meerza.
Canada-based artist Immony Men, a recent Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Arts, was juggling multiple part-time jobs during his college years when he started making murals out of 10,000 post-it notes. “I just wondered what would happen if I took the time and energy I had placed in those part-time jobs and redirected them to developing my own work,” recalls Men, who has installed eight murals at various artist-run centres across Canada.
Talking about his inspirations, Meerza says: “The ideas come from my day-to-day experiences and observations, depending on what’s going on in my mind. These may reflect things I see or conversations I have with my friends.”
Whenever he needs to take a break, Meerza will keep adding on details to a note until there is no space left to draw, but for Men the passion for sticky-note art demands painstakingly long hours.
It takes Men 18 to 22 days to complete a 10,000 sticky-note mural, with 500 to 750 notes mounted every day. The inkjet-printed notes are pasted to create images of office space, communicating the entrapment of 9 am to 5 pm life in his project titled Taking Care of Business.
However, this is not Men’s first venture into sticky-note art. Before murals, the artist used to cover apartment units with post-it notes: “I have always been fascinated with large surfaces covered with thousands of stickies.”
For Men, the art has also served as a means of personal growth and evolution: “After multiple showings, I was fascinated with this intensive time-based process. The physical and mental exhaustion that followed the workflow brought about different human qualities that made it easy for me to relate to my audience.”
Despite allowing a tremendous scope of creativity, post-it notes still are a rare medium of art, partly because the medium is relatively new and partly because of little acknowledgment given to it as a serious form of art.
“My work has very little commercial value. Most artists have another source of income, in order to support their practice,” Men tells The Express Tribune. And for Meerza, “it’s just a hobby”.
However, unlike Meerza, drawing and painting on the sticky notes is more about communicating ideas than the craft for Marc Johns. “I like the format; it forces the drawing to be simple, and the concept to be focused. It’s not so much about the craft of drawing, but more about the idea, boiled down to just the essentials,” explains Johns, a US-based artist who paints and draws humorous images on post-it notes.
More than passion, Johns has been pursuing his talent at a more extensive level. He has been uploading his artwork on his blog for the last two years and has already published a book titled Serious Drawings, featuring a part of his art collection.
Sticky notes support artistry on multiple levels, but with little recognition, one wonders if the post-it note art will be around for long enough to become an established form of creative expression.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned Danish Ali Meerza as a 'Pakistan-based' artist. The correction has been made.