For many of us, our earliest school-taught crafts involved the cutting of paper snowflakes or paper ornaments. Experimentation with paper as an artistic material is how we learned about pattern and repetition; it’s how we came to appreciate that even the ordinary could become a thing of beauty. (Or, if you were none too skilled when it came to manual dexterity, perhaps you learned how to artfully turn your report card into an abstract bundle of shredded dreams).
These artists have taken the art of paper cutting to a whole new level, with works that range from the dizzyingly intricate to the quirky or downright realistic.
Bovey Lee was born in Hong Kong, where she took an early interest in Chinese calligraphy. As an adult she moved to the United States, where she earned Masters degrees from both Berkeley and the Pratt Institute. Her work in cut paper has been featured in over a dozen books. She describes her work as inspired by “our oftentimes labyrinthine relationship with nature, reflecting on what we do to the environment with our super machines and technologies and what nature does back to us in reaction.”
Bert Simons is a South Holland-based designer who practices his hand at a range of disciplines; product design, interior design, prototyping, and CGI are all in his wheelhouse. But he is also a skilled craftsman, particular when it comes to his strikingly realistic, three-dimensional paper portraits. Simons uses a 3D computer photographic model to render individual panes, which are later assembled to create a finished sculpture.
Karen Bit Vejle
“If my art can stop and make you wonder for just one instant,” Karen Bit Vejle states on her personal website, “I think that would be wonderful.” Her first show was featured at the National Museum Of Decorative Arts in Norway in 2008, and since then her work has toured Scandinavia, the United States, and China. She has created delicate, lacy creations for designers, brands, and luxury hotels, even creating iconic window displays for Hermés in its boutiques in Oslo and Copenhagen.
Perhaps one of the most well known paper artists, Peter Callesen’s work is interdisciplinary; he practices in performance and installation art, photography, video, and monoprints. His most iconic work, however, is perhaps his small and large-scale papercuts. Callesen is fascinated with paper as a creative medium. “It is probably the most common and consumed media used for carrying information today,” he says. “This is why we rarely notice the actual materiality of the A4 paper. By taking away all the information and starting from scratch, using the blank white A4 paper sheet for my creations, I feel I have found a material that we are all able to relate to, and at the same time the A4 paper sheet is neutral and open to fill with different meaning.”
Rich McCor is best known as a visual creator on Instagram, operating under the handle @paperboyo. He marries the disciplines of papercrafts and photography to create stunning images that transform the landscape, forcing a new perspective for the viewer. His creations have transformed the London Eye into a literal eye, the Arc de Triomphe into a Lego man, the Neon Museum Las Vegas into Marilyn Monroe’s iconic, billowing white dress. His work offers a creative spin on travel blogging as he reimagines famous landmarks in whimsical, often comical ways.
Mia Pearlman’s work could be considered more abstract than many of her contemporaries. The Cornell-educated artist begins her process by working freeform with India ink on paper, and then cutting out the negative space between the lines. While Pearlman does mock up a piece’s general concept in the studio, she avoids excessive planning; the final product is created intuitively during the gallery installation process, when her cutouts are layered to create three-dimensional clusters.
Jaq Belcher’s work is as elusive as the artist herself. An Australian now based in New York, she focuses on pattern, texture, and repetition in her paper works. Her art has been described as the exploration of “alternative states of consciousness,” and Belcher is learned in eastern and western meditation practices, spiritual alchemy, and esoteric philosophy. Her papercuts are derived from the idea of seeking stillness and purity of form, shedding excess and favouring the beauty of minutiae.
Unlike many of his papercutting contemporaries, Natrop fully embraces color in his work. Natrop cuts freeform, exclusively using a knife to create his incredibly detailed patterns. He describes his process as something that has evolved into a “stream-of-conscious drawing technique, a meditation of repetition and reduction.” By forcing himself to cut instinctually and make decisions in the moment, as opposed to binding himself to a pre-planned concept, Natrop embraces the spontaneity of discovery and uses this to inform his work.