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The Art of Paper Cutting
A closer look 18 Nov 2015

The Art of Paper Cutting

Paper is one of the most traditional artistic media. One thinks of drawing right away, however, China and Japan also mastered the art of origami long ago. But beyond the art of folding, the 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 few years. Popularized by street artists such as Swoon, paper cutting blends delicacy of execution, visual complexity, and ornamental qualities.

Here are five artists who have mastered the art of cutting, collaging, or lasering… 

1. Swoon

Submerged Motherlands, 2014, MoMa

Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, is an American street artist born in 1977. Raised in Florida, it is an environment that influences her work enormously: a world of fishermen, multiculturalism, a range of tropical colors, etc. She graduated from the Pratt Institute in New York in 2002 and quickly turned to printmaking. In 1999, she started working in street art, covering the walls of New York with her collages.

Swoon engraves her works on linoleum, then prints them on Mylar or on recycled paper that she carefully cuts out and covers with acrylic paint before pasting her images on city walls. Resolutely committed, Swoon participates in numerous humanitarian projects and draws inspiration for her works from the human encounters she has during her travels. She was particularly involved following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For his exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, Swoon created gigantic paper sculptures, creating a fantastical landscape centered on a monumental tree with elements such as boats, rafts, and cut-out figures at its base.

2. Kara Walker

Gone, 1994

Kara Walker is an Afro-Californian artist born in 1969. She is known for her exploration of the relationship 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 and turns it into a theater set in which cut-out silhouettes are presented in a dynamic way. Kara Walker’s work tackles the theme of slavery from a realist and historical angle while flirting with fiction. The nightmarish visions of Kara Walker seduce and call the spectator into question at the same time.

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

3. Rubbish

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 nature, 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 an intense glance but also draws inspiration from Native American culture, its myth, and legends.

4. Georgia Russel

La Deuxième Sexe, 2008, 45x23x37cm -2
Le Deuxième Sexe, 2008

Born in 1974, Georgia Russel graduated from the 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 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.

5. Mia Pearlman

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 artificial lighting, take up dramatical proportions.

Pearlman’s sculptures are created from an 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 for 2 or 3 days before the exhibitions.

Pearlman 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.

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