The Art of Paper Cutting

Paper is one of the most traditional artistic media. One think of drawing right away, however China and Japan also have mastered the art of origami long ago. But beyond the art of folding, paper offers an infinity of creative possibilities combining design and fine arts. In the realm of work on paper, cut-outs have grown very famous over the last years. Popularized by street artists such as Swoon, paper cutting blends delicacy of execution, visual complexity and ornemental qualities.

Here are five artists who have mastered the handling of cutter, scalper or laser… 

{1. SWOON}


Submerged Motherlands, 2014, MoMa

Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, is an American street artist born in 1977. Raised in Florida, this state has influenced her imagery a lot. Aftering graduating from the Pratt Institute of New York in 2002, she turned to the technique of engraving and started covering the walls of New York with her collage in 1999.

Swoon engraves her work on linoleum, then print the result on Mylar or recylced paper that she later on cuts out delicately and enhance with acrylic paintings before sticking them on city walls. Committed to environmental issues, she engaged in numerous humanitarian projects and draws her inspiration from the human encounters she makes along her trips.

For her exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of New York, Swoon conceived specific monumental paper sculptures creating a fantasy landscape centered around a gigantic tree with, at its base, boats, rafts and cut-out figures.



Gone, 1994

Kara Walker is an Afro-Californian artist born in 1969. She is known for her exploration of the relation between gender, sexuality and race through her technique of black and white silhouette cut-outs. Kara Walker installs her work directly on the walls of the galleries she exhibits at and turns it into a theater set in which cut-out silhouettes wrestle or fornicate. Kara Walker’s work tackles the theme of slavery under a realist and historical angle while flirting with fiction. The nightmarish visions of Kara Walker seduce and call the spectator into questions at the same time.

Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art of New York, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at the Guggenheim Museum of New York.



Symétriquement opposées, 2014

Rubbish is a French self-taught street artist born in 1980 who works and lives in Besançon. His universe is made of fragile and intricate cut-outs on which he can work for hours and hours. His work is close to the art of embroidery.

Influenced by botanics, his poetical pieces are filled with flowers and remind the Art Nouveau style with a touch of symbolism. Rubbish uses recurrent patterns such as the “hand of the inquisitor” or a heart extract from an anatomy book. Rubbish represents portraits with intense glance, but also draws inspiration from Native American culture, its myth and legends.


La Deuxième Sexe, 2008, 45x23x37cm -2

Le Deuxième Sexe, 2008

Born in 1974, Georgia Russel is graduated with Royal College of Art in London. With the scalpel of a surgeon, Georgia Russel cuts out on vintage books, sheet music, maps and photographs. Between her hands, they become three-dimensional sculptures projecting poetical cast effects of light and shadows on the walls around.

Georgia Russel’s imbues additional meaning to the object she carves in and enables a visual reading of the work as well as a physical and sensitive experience.



Subito, 2010

Mia Pearlman is an American artist born in 1974 who produces paper cut-out in situ installations in two or three dimensions. Her work often looks like sculptures of climate natural phenomena which, under natural and artifical lighting, take up dramatical proportions.

Mia’ sculptures are created from a instinctive and spontaneous creative process: she starts by drawing a line and then follows her inspiration to create aleatory shapes that she then cuts out. She works on her pieces on-site during 2 or 3 days before the exhibitions.

She has been exhibited in numerous galleries and institutions everywhere in the world such as at the Montgomery Museum of Alabama, and the Museum of Art and Design of New York. She has also received a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.