Kirie: the traditional Japanese art of papercutting

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The art of cutting paper has been around for centuries, and has developed differently around the globe, in ways that are unique to each culture involved. It is believed to have originated in China in the 4th century, during the Han Dynasty, and developed into the traditional Chinese art of Jianzhi during the 6th century.

My work is heavily influenced by Japanese design, and traditional paper arts and crafts such as origami, kirigami, origamic architecture, and kirie.

The art of Kirie, when translated, simply means: cut picture.

Traditionally, the art of paper cutting is often done with only one sheet of paper. In my recent work I have been layering the cut paper to create a dynamic play with shadows, different viewpoints, hidden colours, and optical ‘tricks’ that appear to create motion when engaging with the work.

In the example below: “Sorry Narwhal Poutine Toque”, the piece looks completely white when standing directly in front. As the viewer moves to the side, a layer of hidden colour is revealed underneath, and at a distance, this colour shapes the silhouette of a maple leaf.

“Sorry Narwhal Poutine Toque” layered kirie; 12” by 12” framed. 2017

“Sorry Narwhal Poutine Toque” layered kirie; 12” by 12” framed. 2017

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Similarly, in this piece: “Indigo Proud”, the word Indigo is difficult to notice immediately while standing directly in front of the work. Once the viewer moves to the side, they can see the entire spectrum within the letters.

“Indigo Proud” layered kirie, 10” by 10”, framed. 2017

“Indigo Proud” layered kirie, 10” by 10”, framed. 2017