A paper-cut world

A few paper artists that I’ve come across recently through my own research or through recommendation…Li Hongbo, Bovey Lee, Jimmy Brunt, Tom Gallant and Qiao Xiaoguang…

Li Hongbo’s works on first glance look like delicate works of carved porcelain but are actually thousands of layers of soft white paper, carved into busts, skulls, and human forms. As a Beijing-based book editor and designer, he became fascinated by traditional Chinese toys and festive decorations known as paper gourds made from glued layers of thin paper which can be stored flat but then opened to reveal a flower or other shape. He applied the same honeycomb-like paper structure to much larger human forms resulting in these highly flexible sculptures.

Li Hongbo 2
Li Hongbo, ‘Wooden Cube 1’ (2012) 20 x 87 x 20 cm, paper, Dominik Mersch Gallery
Li Hongbo 3
Li Hongbo, ‘Flexible Human’ (2010) 170 x 48 x 30 cm, paper, Dominik Mersch Gallery
Li Hongbo
Li Hongbo, ‘Girl’ II’ (2012) paper, glue, edition of 1, dimensions compounded 58 x 33 x 27 cm, Dominik Mersch Gallery

Hong Kong born artist Bovey Lee has created beautiful intricate cut paper works since 2005, and is now based in the USA. She sees ‘Cut paper is a global art form rich in history and tradition.’ where her practice looks into power, sacrifice and survival by exploring the human and environmental impact of urbanization. he hand cuts each work onto a single sheet of  Chinese xuan (rice) paper that is mounted on silk, both are renewable materials. She sees her work as ‘drawing with a knife’, very much rooted within her study of Chinese calligraphy and pencil drawing at a young age. ‘Cutting paper is a visceral reaction and natural response to my affection for immediacy, detail, and subtlety. The physical and mental demand from cutting is extreme and thrilling, slows me down and allows me to think clearly and decisively…Employing the natural, off-white color of the rice paper, light play and shadow are essential to the overall impact of an image. Shadow gives life and dimension to the cut paper works. It offers a sense of reality contradicting the fictional scenarios within each image. The thin strips of paper that remain form a larger picture; the deep paradoxes in my work contrast starkly with the airy, fragile laces. As a creative medium, cut paper best combines my skills, creativity, and personality, and frees me to create dramatic stories.’

Bovey Lee, 'Vase II' (2012)21 x 24”
Bovey Lee, ‘Vase II’ (2012)
21 x 24”
Bovey Lee, 'Vase I' (2012)(detail 2)
Bovey Lee, ‘Vase I’ (2012)
(detail 2)
Bovey Lee, 'Briefcase Vacation – Winter' (2012)21.5 x 21.5”
Bovey Lee, ‘Briefcase Vacation – Winter’ (2012)
21.5 x 21.5”

Jimmy Brunt is a paper cut artist that I came across through Facebook of all places, but his practice is something else. Originally from Bath, England, now living in France, Jimmy works with stencils, intrigued by the images created during the cutting process, exploring their use as an art medium in their own right. He is influenced by most of the major street artists where his current style of art focuses heavily on a sense of architectural place, much like Bovey Lee.

Jimmy Brunt, detail of 'The Royal Crescent'
Jimmy Brunt, detail of ‘The Royal Crescent’
Jimmy Brunt, 'The Circus' 65cm x 50cm, hand cut original
Jimmy Brunt, ‘The Circus’ 65cm x 50cm, hand cut original

Qiao Xiaoguang was born in Hebei, China, in 1957. He is inspired by ancient Chinese archeological material, music, scenes of contemporary life, and also interested in the themes in Western literary traditions such as Walt Whitman’s poetry and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Paper cutting is an art form primarily practiced by women in China, where designs can be handed down from generation to generation. Each region of China has its own style of paper cuts. Qiao learned his craft from practitioners in Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces, and continues to preserve and record examples of this art form. To me they visually remind me of woodblock prints rather than paper cuts.

Qiao Xiaoguang 2


Finally, and a huge like of mine, the work of Tom Gallant, a British artist from London, he uses a methodology which appropriates crafts as well as motifs, based on literary research to form connections between the elements he uses. ‘Predominantly my practise can be described as an exploration of collector culture with iconography ranging from etymological collections of moths to gothic rose windows and Victorian wallpaper. The work uses a series of physical layers that allow the viewer to experience the level of labour, craft and the aesthetic whilst also questioning the underlying meaning. Intricate paper-cutting is used as a process to remove and reveal, disguising the obscene and creating a third space where the work can be read for what is invisible as much as visible. The play between light and shadow objectify the traditionally two-dimensional medium, creating a new erotic veil whilst still being pornographic. The private made public, and returning to the private through personal interpretation and collecting.’ Beau. Ti. Ful.

Tom Gallant, 'Chrysanthemum' (2005) Detail
Tom Gallant, ‘Chrysanthemum’ (2005) Detail
Tom Gallant 'Pinocchio' (2004) Hand cut paper
Tom Gallant ‘Pinocchio’ (2004) Hand cut paper
Tom Gallant 'Firecrest' (2006) Hand cut paper
Tom Gallant ‘Firecrest’ (2006) Hand cut paper
Tom Gallant 'FLEUR'
Tom Gallant ‘FLEUR’


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