Paper has become one of the most popular sculpture mediums. But “Paper?”, you say, “How can you sculpt with something as flat as paper?”. To this I say three things, ‘Cut’, Fold’, and ‘Bend’. Paper is possibly the most malleable material we have at our disposal. The specific trend of artist books, and book arts have arisen out of the obsolete status of the written word. Thanks to technology, paper has been discarded by society and welcomed with open arms to the realm of the artist. The three exceptional artist described in brief below, are at the forefront of the paper sculpture movement, and show no signs of slowing up. Paper now has a new life, utterly separate from the purpose of its invention, Abstraction!
A native of Miami, Jen Stark studied art at the Maryland Institute, College of Arts. While she majored in fibers, she found an alternative and economic fiber that is so common place, we use it every day in multiple forms, and can be found abundantly, where ever you go. Paper, allowed Stark the flexibility of abstraction, with a familiarity that is universal. Brightly colored construction paper is ubiquitous with childhood craft time, and today it has been transformed into the highest of contemporary art forms. Hypnotic geometry, with sculptural topography and references to natural systems, such as fractals, Stark has transcended the gallery altogether. Many of her pieces seem to tunnel right through the gallery confines, suggesting a break through to the other side would incite adventure. She has been able to take a common place material, in vivid, joyful colors, and fairly simple, yet methodical, construction, and achieve an otherworldly phenomena. http://www.jenstark.com/
Matt Shlian has also found the immediacy of paper to be irresistible, with limitless possibilities. After receiving a masters degree from the Cranbrook Academy, Shlian now collaborates with scientists at the University of Michigan and also travels around the country giving lectures and workshops. Inspired by various sacred geometries, such as cellular biomimicry and Islamic tile mosaics, Shlian has created an elevated form of origami, which lends itself to abstractions of geometry. He is also adamant about accessibility, with all his materials and ‘tools’ listed on his FAQ page, and includes videos of time lapse production as well as a printable instruction project the was featured on Sesame Street. His pieces are merely puzzles for him to work through spatial quandaries with repeated organic forms. The ‘kinetic’ quality lies within their experience: as you walk by one of his pieces it will appear to move, with life like as your eyes perceive curvaceous motion. Salian refers to himself as a “paper engineer”, he sees the greatest advancement in art occurring within the hybrid mediums. Where science and art combine to create fantasies of geometric perfection. https://www.mattshlian.com/
Similar to Matt Shlian, Richard Sweeney also takes an active role in sharing his knowledge of paper works with the world, traveling internationally, from his native England for both lectures and workshops. Sweeney has developed into a multi-media force of creative flow, with works of graphic design, traditional drawing and pubic sculpture. His work focuses on the manipulation of paper through folds, creases and bends. Many of his works are meant to be hung, as they appear weightless and yet colossal, like angelic meditative abstractions, delicately placed in a static pose. They appear to be full of wind, with out a draft to fill them. He manipulates wet, watercolor paper, the dried form is petrified by oxidization…from water comes air. The stark, crispness of his clean white forms are the result of countless experimentations. His true medium may be the light that is transformed within the folds. http://www.richardsweeney.co.uk/works
All three of these artists are reacting to the inherent desire to manipulate paper to its extremes. Each with their very own sphere of influences and methodical processes. From playful and light, to strictly scientific, the art world has never been more inclusive. These artists have all inspired me to push the limitations of these rudimentary sheets, and help reinvent an age-old technology in the twenty first century. Paper is the re-discovered miracle material. Lightweight, economical, and infinitely malleable; paper has become the wonder medium for sculptures everywhere. Weather wet, dry, folded or cut this once overlooked fiber can now transcend its utilitarian past and continue to create the future of fabrication.
All images and information, curtesy of the Artist websites.