Research 7 – Paper Art
I’ve chosen to research some of the artists that are currently listed as the most famous or well known, and I’ve also chosen an OCA student and an Irish artist to show how their skills in paper cutting have evolved to become works of art.
Image from google
Paper cutting art is suggested as having dated back to the 2nd century in China as paper was invented during the Eastern Han Dynasty. We’re more familiar with Egypt having invented papyrus and how many uses the Egyptians had for it. However, many archaeology records start at the 6th century in China for recording the paper cutting artform. That isn’t to say the artform was around before paper as leaves and other materials would have been a good way to create such beautiful decorations. Papercut art became more affordable as paper became cheaper, and window cuttings were used to decorate homes or attract good luck.
It is considered a folk art in China and the decorative features are free formed but often depict some story from Chinese opera. As many people using the decorations would have been farmers and worked the land, the art would often depict farming, crops, and symbols of good fortune. Paper cuttings would often be used in religious ceremonies, events, and symbolic ceremonies.
Paper cutting extended to shadow puppetry. The earliest forms were created in paper and a light cast to create shadow characters on a sheet or a wall. These decorative art forms became more animated as they had moveable paper parts. This evolved into puppets made of leather and oxen, but the earlier forms were paper.
The main ways to create a paper cutting are with a scissors or a knife. There are many illustrators who choose to engage with this art form as a way of expressing their creativity.
Comparing artists – How have they used paper and what processes have they put it through?
Figure 1 has a paper cutting of feathers by Parth Kothekar, which is astonishingly beautiful. The cutting marks are extremely delicate, and the time taken to create the work would have been quite long.
In Figure 2, Morgana Wallace has also expressed a wistful and delicate movement within the cuttings but she has cut the shape of the hair and cloth to reflect it rather than cut into the paper and leave a surround.
Parth’s feathers have a softness as a result of using various sections and cutting lines of varying length into that section. Morgana’s illustration looks layered and deliberately cut into shapes. She has also applied gradients to the clothing with watercolour or ink, and this colouring in and layered effect help it jump off the page. These are absolutely gorgeous artforms and a lot of care and skill went into creating them. You can see how these illustrations would look beautiful framed.
Gemma Lorente-Shore is a current OCA student who has created beautiful portraits with paper cutting. She works in layers too and applies paint and pencil to add textures and capture the likeness of the pet she is creating a portrait of.
By comparison, Maeve Clancy is a mutli-media artist based in the west of Ireland. She works in large paper formats and has created comics along with animated content. She has completed large commissions such as the paper crannog in the figure below. She cuts into the paper and uses negative spaces a lot to suggest depth and shadow of spaces. Her work is ranged so she can go from a smaller piece around A3 in size to covering an entire room full of her paper cuttings. It’s an astonishing amount of work and cutting. She uses coloured paper for contrasting her installation, as seen here in the image of her paper crannog. The leaves on either side acting as a way to bring your eye to the delicate structure handing from the ceiling.
There are many ways to express your creativity in paper, and paper cuttings have proven to be a timeless form of decorative art. Moving them into larger installations is a phenomenal task and having viewed Maeve Clancy’s installation, it is truly astonishing to see the level of detail injected into the work. The skilled involved is jaw dropping.
How could I try this out?
From the research I feel that the easiest way to introduce myself to this beautiful art form would be to start at a reasonable size, not too big or small, and with minimum detailed work involved. I’m not the handiest with cutting and don’t feel it a safe venture, but the work of Woodlucker does feel like something I want to explore and would be willing to try. I have a love of moths and so attaching that sense of enthusiasm to moths might be a way to create with paper in this way.
Chinese Shadow Puppetry (2018) Travel China Guide
Wikipedia (2020) The history of Chinese paper cutting
Gemma Lorente-Shore (2021) Paper Pawtraits
Maeve Clancy (2021) Paper Artist
Barnes, (2017) 31 Artists Who transform ordinary paper into astonishing works of art
Joshua Mark (2016) world history