The (Paper) Cutting Edge – Twelve Artists with a Penchant for Knives
There’s just something strangely satisfying about snipping bits away, whether it’s a purge of spring cleaning, altering clothing, or a fresh new haircut. Physically cutting away to create something new is a common meditative action by paper artists – cutting, folding, bending and gluing a flat sheet of everyday paper to produce something new, dimensional, and lightweight is a unique art form. We’ve gathered twelve artists with penchants for knives who utilize cut paper to produce gorgeous dark artwork.
Canadian artist Sinan Soykut produces macabre paper sculptures revolving around life and death. He carefully cuts and folds the paper to transform a flat page into a three-dimensional curved shape. Anatomically accurate hearts, skeletal hands, flowers, and fungus all merge together as a single unit. Each sheet of paper is hand-cut and folded, with adhesive only being used along the edges of the paper to hold their shapes. “The delicate and humble nature of paper makes it ideal for sculpture surrounding the ideas of fragility and tenuous balance.” Soykut is elusive — his Instagram has been dark for a while – but we are eagerly awaiting his return.
The monochromatic silhouette designs of Ivonne Carley aren’t your average shadow portraits. Her use of subtly folded paper and vellum allow for depth and detail in delicate lace, feathers, or insect wings. Influenced by the occult, mythology, and her Mexican heritage, Carley’s use of silhouettes allow her to weave a story using shadow and texture, leaving her artwork open to interpretation by the viewer.
Kako Udea is a Tokyo-born, Brooklyn-based paper artist. Her passion in creating cut paper as an art form was initially spurred by her mother experiencing an unexpected illness – this “aggressive” act of cutting began as a coping mechanism and grew from there as Ueda realized she could create something beautiful and fragile from it. Inspired by memories of her family and Japanese heritage, her work celebrates the cyclical nature of life and combines painting and drawing with collage and cut paper elements.
Combining surrealism with poetry, award-winning Spanish illustrator Sonia Alins creates a unique dimensional effect in her Dones D’Aigua series. She utilizes cut paper, vellum, and a variety of materials and illustration techniques to give the illusion of floating women within an endless sea. The semi-transparent nature of vellum paper allows for some details to be softly obscured. Body-positive physiques appear to emerge (or submerge) within the water, swimming, floating, or struggling to stay afloat at the mercy of a strangely calm ocean.
Hari & Deepti
These aren’t your mama’s dioramas. Indian artists Deepti Nair and Harikrishnan Panicker (known together as Hari & Deepti) collaborate using layers of cut paper backlit by LED lights to produce whimsical and moody narratives. This husband and wife duo have spent time traveling the world, learning unique folklore about the places they’ve been, then spinning these unique cultural tales into their own. The resulting dark fantasy environments they create are lush with detail, spoopy trees, strange animals, and plenty of twinkling stars.
I’m a sucker for quirky typography, but who knew something beautiful could come out of designer’s block? South African artist and graphic designer Lavanya Naidoo specializes in paper art and tactile design. Naidoo uses a paper artform called “quilling” (also known as paper filigree), which involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs. With clients like Twinings Tea and Virgin Active, we’ll likely see more of her work in future advertising… though I mostly enjoy her naughty typography posts on her Instagram.
Who doesn’t love decorating their walls using cleverly crafted organs? Oh, is that just me? Well if you’re in that club too, consider checking out these artfully anatomical paper cuttings by Toronto-based artist Ali Harrison of Light and Paper Shop. Harrison initially began cutting everything by hand, but when she couldn’t keep up with the demand of her lace-like designs in her Etsy shop, she invested in a laser cutter (though she still designs new work using a good old-fashioned blade). I love how the organs take on a floral appearance. PS – 10% of all proceeds from this piece will be donated to Planned Parenthood Toronto.
Paper artist Matthew Shlian literally engineers fibers into three-dimensional art forms. Simultaneously an artist, explorer, and inventor, Shlian uses his engineering skills and love of geometry to create these origami-like kinetic sculptures. His exploring of a seemingly simple media has led to collaborations with scientists at the University of Michigan. “We work on the nanoscale, translating paper structures to micro folds.”
The cut paper collage works of Alex Eckman-Lawn are spellbinding and unnerving. Combining antiquated photographs, vintage bookplate illustrations, and hand-embellished details, each layer is spaced in a way that creates depth with the viewer. While the ending visual can vary greatly, the sense of silence and isolation among his body of cut paper series is consistent.
Pulling from a variety of folklore worldwide, the cut paper witches by Morgana Wallace are reminiscent of paper dolls with jointed limbs. Her mixed media compositions are created through collaged paper, working the fibers to create multiple layers and various textures, with a layer of gouache to provide texture and detail. From threads of hair to delicate jewelry and embellishments, her mixed media artwork is captivating.
While it hurts my heart to think of cutting up antiquated books, the book art of Alexander Korzer-Robinson is spellbinding, to say the least. In the tradition of collage, he pursues a very personal obsession of creating narrative scenarios in small format. By using antiquated books, it makes the art simultaneously an exploration and a deconstruction of nostalgia. Working page by page, he cuts around some illustrations and removes others, building a composition based solely on how the images appear within the text. His anatomical pieces are particularly stunning.
Stained glass, photography, and paper merge into a single artform within the ornate cut paper “paintings” by Eric Standley. Gothic cathedral windows, Islamic arches, and other masterful architectural details are hand-assembled, layer by layer, using hundreds of sheets of laser-cut paper. The depth and detail achieved are intensely beautiful, and when combined over a vast, empty ocean, gives the impression of isolation.
Featured image courtesy of Ivonne Carley.