Paper sculpture can be defined as an artwork that is created by combining or shaping different types of paper. Keeping in mind that the most famous sculptures in Modern and Contemporary art are made of stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials that would ensure the endurance of artwork, creating a paper sculpture is a very complicated and difficult process, because the artist has to ensure the stability and permanence of artwork. Paper, as a soft material for sculptures, requires special approach and it needs a lot of patience and great precision.
How would we describe paper sculpture more accurately? For example, many would say that origami - the art of paper folding, associated with Japanese culture – is a paper sculpture form. There is a big difference between origami and paper sculptures – unlike origami, paper sculpture is made of several pieces of paper instead of one. Finally, paper is also the subject, and not only the object, while everything else just a tool. In addition, many sculptors use paper as a material in their art, but they combine paper with “stronger” substantial, such as metal, wood or ceramics. For example, Pablo Picasso created several sculptures with materials that included paper as well. But, paper was just a decoration or an additional element of sculpture. In this article, only the sculptures that are entirely created by paper will be presented.
Finally, paper sculptures are often made by non-professional creators ; the talented and gifted men and women who create art but who are not part of the mainstream contemporary art scene. There are amazing video tutorials for people who like sculptures and they would find them very interesting and useful. A number of books and manuals about creating a paper sculptures were written, and the target group for the authors of these books are these non-professional creators and students, who learn the skills of sculpture-making by practicing with paper. There are only a few contemporary artists whose oeuvre is entirely based on paper sculpture; however their practice contributes to the development of contemporary sculpture quite a bit. In this article, we take a look at the artworks by established artists, the individuals who regularly participate in contemporary art exhibitions, art fairs and who are an important part of the contemporary art scene.
Editors’ Tip: Paper Sculpture: A Step-by-Step Guide
The vast majority of books about paper sculpture are actually manuals aiming to teach someone the technical skills necessary to create visually appealing paper sculptures. The book titled Paper Sculpture: A Step-by-Step Guide is a perfect example for those who want to learn the skill of paper sculpture creating. The pristine beauty of paper sculpture is illustrated by nine artists who describe the curling, scoring and folding techniques used to create a wide variety of provocative paper sculptures. Full color portfolio pieces by each artist demonstrate the myriad applications of paper as an illustrative medium. The book was written by Kathleen Ziegler and Nick Greco, who is Vice President and principal partner of Dimensional Illustrators, Inc.
Jen Stark is American contemporary artist, known for creating paper sculptures. Her artwork mimics intricate patterns and colors found in nature while exploring ideas of replication and infinity. Almost all of her artworks are multicolored, reflecting her desire to represent the richness of nature. Although best-known for her paper sculptures, Stark also explores a variety of media including wood, metal, paint and animation.
Featured Image: Jen Stark - Vortextural, Installation of hand-cut acid-free paper, foam board, glue, detail (ciurtesy of installationmag.com)
Danish artist Peter Callesen is one of the greatest paper cut artists in the world. But, he is also known for creating paper sculptures. Callesen usually works with A4 sheets of paper, and the reason why is because it’s probably the most common and consumed media used for carrying information today. The materiality of A4 paper is reduced to information seeding. Through his art, Callesen shows all the potentials of the paper as material for art-creating.
Featured Image: Peter Callessen - No Titled (Troublehead), 2015 (courtesy of petercalessen.com)
Rogan Brown is a contemporary artist who explores the architecture of nature and organic growth. The paper is the main material for his sculptures – Brown uses a scalpel knife to cut the material, and the process of creating a single piece sometimes takes months to be completed. Through his art, Rogan Brown mixes science and art, and he is representing cell structures, microbes, pathogens, vegetal forms, coral, fossils, insects, shells…
Featured Image: Rogan Brown - Magic Circle, detail (courtesy of roganbrown.com)
Li Hongbo is the most famous paper sculptor in the world. He is a globally renowned artist who became famous for his stunning artworks. His sculptures are made of paper sometimes mixed with glue, and by gluing together up to tens of thousands of individual sheets, Li builds blocks of paper that he carves into human figures, objects, and replicas of Classical Greek and Italian busts. Li Hongbo's oeuvre has been exhibited all over the world, and can be found in public and private collections in many important museums and art institutions.
Featured Image: Li Hongbo - Bust of Michelangelo's David (courtesy of robbreport.com)
Born in Kuwait, Hamra Abbas is an internationally recognized artist currently based in Lahore and Boston. Abbas explores a wide range of media, from paper collage and painting to ephemeral soft plasticine sculpture and video. She often uses traditional symbols and cultural loaded imagery and transforms them into often humorous works. Her paper sculptures appear delicate and strong at the same time.
Featured Image: Hamra Abbas - Objects, detail, 2012, printed paper installation (courtesy of wheresart.eu)
Gabby O’Connor studied sculpture in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts, and did his masters in Sydney at the College of Fine Arts. O’Connor currently resides in Wellington, New Zealand. He is interested in science and art equally, which resulted in a stunning installation called What Lies Beneath. This paper sculpture made him famous, and it’s made up of thousands of small paper triangles dyed in shades of blue-green, to imitate an ice berg.
Featured Image: Gabby O'Connor - What Lies Beneath (courtesy of boosted.org.nz)
Sher Christopher is an artist who creates exclusively in paper. In fact, he believes there’s such a wealth of diversity in paper that at the moment there is no need for the use other material at all. He patiently works on every work, trying to create piece of art that would be permanent. Sher Christopher has been exhibited widely in Europe and the United States.
Featured Image: Sher Christopher - Macbeth (courtesy of sherchristopher.com)
Gilbert & George is a collaborative duo composed of Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore. Although they are known for brightly colored graphic-style photo-based artworks, Gilbert & George created several so-called “living sculptures” between 1970 and 1974. Their famous piece titled The Tuileries was created in 1974, and it’s a paper-based piece.
Featured Image: Gilbert & George - The Tuileries (charcoal on paper sculpture), 1974
Canadian artist Calvin Nicholls creates multi-layered paper sculptures. Working on them since 1986, the artist spends from 4 weeks to 2 years on a piece. The process begins with drawings which becomes a pattern for the pieces that he cuts out with scalpels and x-acto knives. Nicholls has been exhibited all over North America, and until today, he has created more than 500 paper sculptures.
Featured Image: Calvin Nicholls - Bear (courtesy of metro.co.uk)
Another great piece of paper sculpture by Li Hongbo Bust of David proves that this Chinese artist is one of the most renowned paper sculptors in the world. Li is inspired by the idea of tradition and ubiquity that paper embodies. His works look like traditional sculptures made by Renaissance masters. Within contemporary art scene, Li Hongbo is very respected for his art and his shows are always highly anticipated.
Featured Image: Li Hongbo - Bust of David (courtesy of thisiscolossal.com). All images used for illustrative purposes only.