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Contemporary Art and Culture Meet Traditional Paper-Cutting

posted on: Dec 7, 2022

Paper-cutting / Pixabay

By: Jenny Lyu / Arab America Contributing Writer

This traditional art experience is a journey of the creator’s self-discovery and expression with a contemporary interpretation. Paper-cutting is a complex and precise production, an art that gives the pattern a modern meaning. Papercut artists from all walks of life, such as geometry and engineering, traverse analog and digital to explore ideas within traditional and contemporary processes. From East to West, how can Islamic geometry and Arab world story be told in this work of extreme intricacy?

Arabesque consists of repeating geometric figures, stars, moon, plants, and Arabic calligraphy as a series of nested decorations. The plant-based design can be tiled or seamlessly repeated as many times as desired to form stretches endlessly. Each leaf grows on the tip of another leaf. For Muslims, the combination of countless geometric figures represents the existence of an infinite existence beyond the visible material world. The various geometric figures symbolize the infinite creative attributes of God that fill the universe. No matter how art, design, mathematics, and engineering collide, this concept of paper artwork stays there.

Technology: Paper-Cutting Artworks Between People and Machines

Based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Studio Ibbini is an award-winning collaboration between Julia Ibbini and Stéphane Noyer, creating works that intersect contemporary art, design, and engineering. Julia is a visual artist and designer; she is of Jordanian heritage and lived in the UAE for most of her life. Stéphane is a computer scientist and maker with an interest in computational geometry. She is French and moved to the UAE in 2012.

Paper-Cutting Artwork from Studio Ibbini / Instagram

Science meets art to generate creative ideas. The selection of materials, their workability, difficulty, and aesthetics require significant consideration. Julia and Stéphane think the particular focus is the creation of visual complexity, either the repeated simple motifs, elaborate geometric construction, or accumulation of decorative detail for highly intricate and decorative pieces. They are particularly drawn to the possible contrast between visual intricacy and the underlying construction principles of the patterns. In an Instagram post, Julia states, “Keeping the overall form minimal with simple lines offsetting the complexity of the pattern detail, complexity can emerge from simple rules, or, conversely, how complex constructions can result in simple, clean visuals.”

Keep the overall form minimal with simple lines offsetting the complexity of the pattern detail / Instagram

Storytelling: A New Style of Paper Cutting that Focuses on Realism and Imagination

What you see is the imagination of movement and traditional Chinese paper-cutting art. With a strong affinity for both Chinese and Arab-Islamic cultures, Jincai Ma has mastered traditional Chinese and Arab-Islamic patterns from his grandmother. In his artworks, you can see a beautiful harmony between the peony pattern, a European pattern, and the hagiography. In terms of paper materials, Master Ma is also very particular about the style of his works, which include single-color paper cutting, dyed paper cutting, and multi-layer dyed paper cutting. Ma said that it is easy to cut paper, but it is very difficult to form one’s own style in terms of creation. Jincai Ma wants to find more students in China who love paper-cutting and teach them, so that they can pass on the paper-cutting and add their own unique style to it, making paper-cutting fuller of culture and storytelling.

How Jincai Ma combines Arab elements into traditional Chinese paper artwork. / YouTube

The paper-cutting work “Flower Girl Learning Arabic” is the famous work of Chunxia Jing. This work is based on the traditional folk art of the “Flower” of Xihaigu and the Concentric generation, which refers to young Islamic girls, and also shows the urgent need for Arabic language talents in Sino-Arabian economic exchanges and the growing atmosphere of Chinese Islamic women learning the Arabic language, reflecting the current ethnic characteristics of Chinese Islamic women learning life.

Flower Girl Learning Arabic / FreeWechat

In the end, we are sharing with you more great paper-cutting artists from all over the world, exploring geometry, science, religion, and art together – 24 contemporary paper artists inspired by Islamic geometry & pattern.

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