Artist's mind-bending paper sculptures are wood-free (Video)

Li Hongbo
© Li Hongbo

We've featured various handmade paper artworks over the years here, but perhaps none of them are as mind-bendingly flexible as the paper works by Chinese artist Li Hongbo. What may seem at first as classically styled plaster busts is immediately shattered when the pieces are put into motion, unfolding into rather psychedelic elongations of form through space and time.

© Li Hongbo

According to This Is Colossal, Li's inspiration came not from an unforeseen avant-garde source, but from traditional Chinese paper crafts:

A book editor and designer, [Li] 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 explains why he chose paper as a material for his works:

This visual impact had me realize that an alternative possibility existed in the language of paper texture and form: from concrete to abstract; from physical to the intangible; from standardization to liberation; or vice versa. The continuity of paper has thus become a key element in the language expression here; its gathering and dispersing, ups and downs, twists and turns have presented to us a set of unpredictable images.

© Li Hongbo
© Li Hongbo
© Li Hongbo

As seen in the fascinating first video above from the Schoeni Gallery, Li's meticulous process begins by gluing hundreds of sheets of wood-free paper by hand into blocks that are then sanded down into the desired forms. As Li demonstrates in another video below (Mandarin only), he first started out by created paper guns which in a surprising turn, open up into beautiful, round forms.

© Li Hongbo
© Li Hongbo

While we certainly hope the materials used are recycled and recyclable, what is interesting here is how Li has preserved a tradition by re-interpreting it into new forms and functions. In addition, the visual delight of seeing the pieces stretch and deform evokes a sense of quantum multi-dimensionality -- that in fact, matter can and does stretch beyond our understanding. More over at This Is Colossal and The Method Case.

Tags: Artists | Arts | China