The art of papercutting appears to have its roots in China, spreading out to neighbouring regions and flourishing even in Europe during the sixteenth century. It is currently enjoying a modern renaissance, with many artists turning to knives and precisely cut paper to express gorgeous scenes inspired by fantasy or by nature. Hong Kong-born, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based artist Bovey Lee is a master of this delicate artform, creating insanely intricate images of nature and manmade industry on feather-light rice paper.
Traditionally trained as a painter, Lee began exploring paper cuts back in 2005. She now creates large scale works on fragile rice paper that is backed with silk (both renewable and recyclable materials), painstaking cutting each scene prior to hanging them up in galleries. She says that her works are narratives that explore the "tension between man and the environment in the context of power, sacrifice, and survival":
These three “motivators,” as I call them, drive all our desires and behaviors toward one another and the environment. We live in a time when we overdo everything from technology to urbanization to consumption. My recent work is informed by our precarious relationship with nature in the twenty-first century, i.e., what we do to the environment with our super machines and technologies and what nature does back to us in reaction.
Her arsenal of tools include cutting mats, knives, staples, clips and paperweights. Lee will often finalize images on the computer, separating light and dark into solids and voids to be cut by hand, without the aid of stencils. Her choice of composition is based out of her experiences with Chinese calligraphy and traditional pencil drawing; while the act of cutting becomes an exercise of mental discipline and sublime concentration, integrating the movements of the hand with an inner vision.
On first glance, one is impressed with the overall intensity of detail, but upon closer examination, one is struck too by the juxtaposition of fantastical imagery with the urgent reality of disaster -- the foolhardiness of human hubris pitting itself against the implacable forces of nature. It is almost like we are looking at our own destruction, and our own salvation.
Lee's works are utterly gorgeous, and tell a cautionary tale about the delicate balance we as humans tread today, all carved on a page that will itself disintegrate with the flow of time. More over at Bovey Lee's website.