If you haven’t read part 1 of the Paper Art article series, where the uniqueness of the material’s nature was explained, click here. Otherwise, let’s scroll down!
The long-term relationship
Since the paper was invented in human history in China around 100 BC, humans developed its civilization around its development. According to the archeological study, the word “paper” originates in Egyptian thick paper-like material, papyrus, which dates much farther back to 2560 – 2550 BC. In 2020, the attachment we have with it may be fading, but it won’t disappear overnight due to the wake of digital technology. Even today, when everything can be done via emails, texts, and video chats, we still send out cards for season’s greetings, weddings, birthdays, and occasions as such. When we can have hundreds of books in a light and thin tablet, some still buy heavy and bulky paper books. It is the reminiscent instinct for analog-ness that connects us with this seemingly obsolete material.
However, as obsolete it is, over 4,000 year-long relationships between humans and paper are still carrying on happily and globally. For example, in France, where I currently am, there are quite popular antique markets held a couple of times a year. One of the most peculiar yet intriguing merchandise I see is the letters aged several decades. Those beautifully handwritten postcards and letters are tinged with yellow, but their sentiments are not. In the bleeding of inks or the strokes, we can still see the writers’ hesitation or excitements without decolorized.
A thin but durable Japanese paper called Washi has developed with the relation of brush and India ink. For its beautiful texture, too, it makes its way to furniture such as lamps or partitions. As it had become the wrapping material for the offerings in Shinto – a religion native to Japan, the knowledge of folding and creasing patterns became a part of education kept for novel Samurai families. Later in the Edo period, it turns into a common play now we know as Origami. Growing up in Japan, I, a millennial, was always familiar with the quality paper by studying traditional calligraphy, making Origami, and competing with friends with papercraft planes.
The analog and organic catalysis
Janaki Lele, an India based visual artist, creates hand-cut paper art to tell stories to us. In the poem accompanies her artwork called Telepathy, she writes, “Energy channels through invisible lines…, connects the two minds…, Were you thinking of me; ‘cos I was just thinking of you.” It makes us rethink how we connect with others because it is not only the visible power cable, a modern source of power, that connects our brains. When we express our thoughts, they are like kites and birds released to let flow in the sky. This flow creates the energy as it interacts with the turbine mechanism like those wind and water mills inside our skulls. Maybe the telepathy-like connections happen when we are in sync through this analog mechanism.
In another work, Star Catchers, she depicts the dreamy scenario, which was inspired by the time she spent with a toddler trying to catch sunsets passing by their window. These stories are all happening on one or a few pieces of paper utilizing the silhouette and the slightest depth. The capacity of the micromillimeter-thick sheet to host and convey all the dramas is incredible. How is it possible? I believe that is because the paper is organic. Just as we saw that the thoughts and communications were formed organically, biological energy is interacting between humans and art. It connects the artists with the art and the art with us as catalysis.
The paper Samurai – sharp as a Katana?
Hyakkimaru, an incredibly prolific – creating more than 10,000 works in his career- “cutaway artist” from Japan, reanimates Samurai warriors into the 21st century through the paper. His lines are particularly noticeable for its sharpness as sleek as a Katana – Japanese sword. As he has created many pieces for book cover designs with Japanese historical novels, many of his motifs come from the time when Samurai and Ninja thrived. His bold compositions, though, it has the dynamics of the Ukiyoe and catchiness of Manga. These elements, combined with his lively figures, his works are so full of life. An organic material, paper, has the capacity to host its vibrant life within, as we realize.
His professional activities are just as powerful as his artwork. He not only creates cutaway art in both two- and three-dimensions, but also appears on TV, holds exhibitions in Japan, the U.S., and France, and interestingly enough, performs a live cutaway show. Apparently, there are face masks on sale which his designs are featured too. Hyakkimaru, who studied architecture in university and practiced pottery, may have strayed in his career building like a Ronin – a Samurai wanderer. But now, as the leading figure of Japanese paper cutaway art, he hews out a career for himself and delineates its potential to successors.
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