Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Paper Sculpture

Kyle Bean's paper model of Neuschwanstein Castle.

Paper sculpture, cut, folded, bent,
or glued--whatever works.
Almost two years ago, I wrote on the Japanese art of origami. Origami is, of course, the art of paper folding and is thus a sculptural technique. The art has strict rules, no glue, no scissors, no paint, etc. Paper sculpture, on the other hand has virtually no rules except for the fact that it involves some form of organic fiber in its material. That is to say, paper can be made from virtually any fibrous material having adherent qualities when dried into thin, flexible sheets. Even that definition is somewhat limiting in that paper can also be molded when moist, allowing it to form three-dimensional shapes (papier-mâché). Therefore, once you remove most restrictions as to its use, paper become one of the most versatile sculptural mediums known to man. Its major liability being extremes of heat and moisture.
The Paper Tutu. Printed paper often adds a lot to a sculptural work.

Chinese Hemp Paper 100 BC.
The link between art and paper is nearly as old as paper itself, beginning with a sort of paper made by the Egyptians from papyrus reeds as early as four-thousand B.C. Modern paper from cellulose fibers dates from China, about 100 BC (right). Paper sculpture (origami) dates from the 17th-century (some sources claim as early as the 6th-century). Thus art on paper is much older than art of paper. Virtually every artist since the invention of paper has probably rendered work on paper (drawing, watercolor, printing, calligraphy, etc.). Yet, even today, few artists have tried making art of (or from) paper--paper sculpture. The likely reason is that few artists are sculptors--few artist think three-dimensionally. As one who has tried to teach this mindset, I can tell you it is one of the most difficult art skills I've ever tried to impart.
Paper Cloud Ceiling, Tara Donovan--tape, paper, and drinking straws
Embossed paper, Simon Schubert
Besides the folding of paper mentioned above, sculptural techniques often involve the simple bending of paper, as well as cutting and curling, molding, embossing (left), layering, and various combinations of some or all of these techniques. Sometimes household materials such as paper drinking straws and facial tissues are used. When I was a child, my mother taught us how to make carnation corsages from facial tissues and green pipe cleaners. We handed them out at church on Mother's Day. Each one took less than five minutes once you learned the knack. Of course, paper flowers have long been a staple of the paper sculptor, and in fact, may have been one of the earliest subjects for such work.
Geo #1, 2006, Josh Sperling
Paper floral sculpture
Obviously, the kind of paper used has a great deal to do with how the paper is manipulated and in the finished work. Needless to say, tissue paper looks and behaves differently than corrugated cardboard (yes, that counts as paper). For years I taught architecture using corrugated cardboard to build model houses. Likewise, methods and outcomes also have a lot to do with the quantity of paper used. As a child I can remember making Christmas trees by folding the pages of old Sears and Roebuck catalogs (roughly two inches thick back then) causing the binding to form a tube allowing the pages, when folded, to form a cone shape. We then spray-painted our "trees" green, gold, or white, decorating them with what amounted to painted "spitballs."
by Allen Eckman
Molded paper
Flocked (torn) paper sculpture,
Anna-Wili Highfield’s
One of the beauties of paper in creating sculptured art is that, first of all, it's relatively inexpensive (as compared to 18K gold, for instance). Second, it's relatively light in weight (as compared to bronze, for instance). Third, it's available in vast quantities (as compared to gemstones). Fourth, it's relatively long-lasting (as compared to ice and snow); and most of all it's fairly forgiving of errors (as opposed to carving marble). Along the same line, I might also add that the learning curve in creating sculptural works from paper is quite gentle. I used to teach 3-D paper art in first grade (construction paper) as well as 12th grade (cardboard), with students attaining much the same degree of success relative to their ages.

Layered paper sculpture, by self-taught Korean artist,
Cheong-ah Hwang, Columbus, Ohio.
Paper sculpture returns to its roots.


No comments:

Post a Comment