Yulia Brodskaya's mesmerizing quilled paper portraits (PHOTOS)

There's something I find mesmerizing about art that is radically simple in form or medium, yet intricate and complex in subject and meaning. Russian artist Yulia Brodskaya's incredible paper works fit into this category.

Like Richard Shilling's use of twigs and leaves to remind us of the simple beauty of nature or the guns Sonia Rentsch forms with flower buds, nuts and sticks to raise the issue of environmental degradation and violence, Yulia Brodskaya utilizes paper -- perhaps the most basic art material available -- and a technique called "quilling" that involves twisting and folding strips of paper in such a way that she forces the viewer to not only appreciate her finished work, but also reconsider how we look at the raw materials she's using.

SLIDESHOW: See larger versions of Yulia Brodskaya's paper portraits

Gypsy Smoking a Pipe
© Yulia Brodskaya

In these detail shots of the Gypsy portrait, you can really appreciate the attention to detail that goes into the color choices and size and shapes needed to create a form with quilled paper.

© Yulia Brodskaya

© Yulia Brodskaya

I don't want to oversell the "green" angle here -- part of my interest in posting this on TreeHugger was just that it appeals to me and I like sharing art I personally enjoy -- but there is a lesson in Brodskaya's work regarding waste and minimalism.

"Less is more" is something we talk about often when discussing the benefits of sustainability and I think these paper portraits echo that idea. Instead of a sculptor starting with a block of stone or wood or clay and chipping and carving away to create an artwork, Brodskaya starts with paper and builds up only those lines needed to form this intricately detailed depth and texture. And by using strips of paper, there is very little waste, because even the smallest slivers of paper can sometimes be just the size needed for an eyelash or wrinkle or bit of feather.

Of course, not all art needs or should use this style just because it reduces waste. That is not the point. Rather, what's inspiring here is her fresh outlook on a simple medium. Artists have used paper for millennia and in many different ways, yet as these pieces illustrate, there's always more opportunity for fresh ways of thinking and innovative approaches to achieve spectacular results. The creativity and innovative mindset that Brodskaya is displaying here is something the world definitely needs more of.

Loves Doves
© Yulia Brodskaya

These compilations were made by This is Colossal using thumbnails from Brodskaya's website. You can see the process and planning that the artist uses before applying the paper. A sketch and some color choices are made, then the paper is used to build up the image.

© Yulia Brodskaya

© Yulia Brodskaya

Head Scarf Left Behind
© Yulia Brodskaya

On her website, Yulia Brodskaya explains the inspiration behind this piece:

This paper work is my reflection to the subject of things people leave behind when they die. When it's someone close to you, it might be unbearable to look at their things, and yet, you don't want to let any of it go because things are all physical that you have left of a person. The things that people leave behind are what connect us to them; a person can 'fade away', disappear, but an item of clothes that is left behind tells us that we were not dreaming the person who left; tell us that they were once tangible, warm, and breathing.

© Yulia Brodskaya

In addition to these original portraits, Brodskaya's illustrations for advertisements, book covers and other brand work are equally as impressive. You can view those pieces and learn more about the artist at her website.

Tags: Artists | Arts

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