The enchanting, imaginative narratives usually bound between the covers of a book burst from the page in the sculptures of Su Blackwell. Often sourcing materials from secondhand shops, flea markets, and library sales, the British artist, who’s based in Hastings, constructs lush gardens of birds and wildflowers and quiet cottages in the midst of evergreens that appear to emerge from vintage volumes.
Imbued with movement in the form of wind or waves, the whimisical works tend to revolve around the fleeting and finding refuge during times of loneliness and mundanity. Blackwell shares with Colossal:
I take my inspiration from fairytales and folklore and use these well-known tales as conduits for modern-day experiences. I often search for stories that relate to my life, whether that be Little Red Riding Hood meeting the big bad wolf or a princess given an impossible task of spinning straw (or in my case ‘words’) into gold, as in the Brother Grimm’s story “Rumplestiltskin. “The themes I explore have a universal appeal, and overall, there is a sense of hope pervading the works.
Blackwell is participating in a group show opening this August at Gustav Lübcke Museum in Hamm, Germany, and has solo exhibitions scheduled for 2023 and 2024 at The Last Tuesday Society and Long and Ryle in London. You can shop prints, cards, and her illustrated book of fairytales in her shop, and follow her practice on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)
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Since 2010, Brazilian origami artist Jo Nakashima has amassed a trove of original designs ranging from modular cubes and kinetic works to multicolor, angular wildlife. His creations require just a single sheet of double-sided paper and a deft hand and vary in complexity: Nakashima marks the eagle with pleated wings, quacking duck, and writhing snake shown here as intermediate or above. Head to YouTube for detailed instructions on folding your own versions of his intricate designs, but take note of his warning: “Although I call it ‘simplified,’ it doesn’t mean it is simple: it is just simpler than the original version, but actually it is still a bit complex.”
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Six Years In the Making, the Elaborate 'Grand Jardin' by Lisa Nilsson Pushes the Boundaries of Paper
Lisa Nilsson (previously) has spent years perfecting a technique known as quilling in which thin strips of paper are rolled into coils and then pinched and nudged into shape in a process she likens to completing a puzzle. With a history thought to extend back to Ancient Egypt, the practice rose to more recent popularity in 18th century Europe. Narrow edges of gilt book pages were a popular material, creating metallic surfaces when rolled into place. In her most recent work, “Grand Jardin,” Nilsson has expanded upon this traditional method by building up more dense applications of the medium and assembling on a much bigger scale. Combining shimmering gold pieces with vivid hues of Japanese mulberry paper across the surface, the ubiquitous material transforms into a remarkable topography.
Taking several years to complete, she paid painstaking attention to the complexities and details of the design, balancing intricate organic shapes with precise geometric patterns, all while preserving the composition’s overall symmetry. “The phases of my creative process—as it progressed from the initial spark of inspiration to settling in to work, to decision-making and problem solving, to finding flow, losing flow and finding it again, to commitment and renewal of commitment—were repeated many times over the six years and within the context of widely varying moods,” she tells Colossal.
Brimming with floral motifs and butterflies and contained within an ornate border, the lush details of “Grand Jardin” emerge in the textures of each group of coils and in the intricate shapes of the flowers and foliage. Inspired by the patterns and process of making Persian rugs, Nilsson sees parallels between weaving and quilling, and is amused by the nature of improvisation in a process that is so slow-moving and meticulous. “Having a working relationship with one piece for such a long period of time brought novel thoughts and emotions and required new things of me as an artist and as a person,” she says.
You can find more information on Nilsson’s website.
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Barcelona-based artist Raya Sader Bujana (previously) defines her work as something between sculpture and illustration, creating impossibly tiny replicas of houseplants that rest atop a finger. From leaves to blooms and thorns to branches, even the delicate woven baskets that contain the plants are constructed from paper with the aid of tweezers and scalpels in a process more akin to surgery than origami. Her background in architecture translates to an exacting quality of “composition, use of color, texture, volume, light and sometimes subject matter,” she shares. In addition to selling original works and prints on Etsy and Society6, Bujana also has a wide range of corporate clients like Coca Cola, Swarovski, and HP. You can follow more of her process and updates to her online shops on Instagram.
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Paper Sculptures by Roberto Benavidez Reenvision Common Birds and Fantastical Creatures as Metallic Piñatas
At once fantastically imaginative and embedded in tradition, the shimmering piñatas that comprise Roberto Benavidez’s body of work expand the boundaries of the conventionally festive object. The Los Angeles-based artist (previously) cuts skinny, triangular strips of material that he attaches to paper mache forms in the shape of birds, hybrid animals, and otherworldly creatures. His metallic works often address questions of identity—the artist speaks about this further in a Colossal interview—particularly considerations of gender and sexuality through the lens of his layered forms.
Benavidez’s gynandromorphs series, for example, reenvisions the phenomenon in common bird species by splicing male and female bodies together into a mirrored sculpture—three of these pieces will be on view through June 14 at The Loft at Liz’s in Los Angeles. He’s also continuing his renditions of Hieronymous Bosch characters and illuminated manuscripts, the latter of which includes the polka-dotted wildcat and portly, tusked “Javelina Girl” shown above. While drawing on centuries-old works, narratives, and myths in these series, each piñata is the artist’s reinterpretation of the classic iconography and themes into an inventive, contemporary form.
In the coming months, a few of Benavidez’s birds will be on view at Heron Arts, and the group exhibition devoted to piñatas that opened last fall at Craft in America will be traveling to the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. Follow news about upcoming opportunities to see his sculptures in person on Instagram.
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Evoking the biological illustrations of Ernst Haeckel (previously) and photographic portraits of Merlin Tuttle, an ongoing project explores the incredible diversity of bats through geometric paper sculptures. Juan Nicolás Elizalde, who is half of the creative team behind the Buenos Aires-based studio Guardabosques (previously), began the series in 2019 after discovering variances in the animals’ ear shapes, fur patterns, and other distinctive characteristics. He’s since crafted 88 different species with scored and folded paper and is currently in the process of photographing each piece, from the wide-eyed flying fox to the speckled Cuban flower bat.
Titled Amiguitos de la Oscuridad, the collection has a dedicated Instagram account, where Elizalde is in the process of sharing every portrait and additional information about the species. “The project is called Little Friends of Darkness because they are nocturnal animals that I want to be friends with,” he writes, “but also because they helped me to spend the nights of the last few strange and dark years, with a little anxiety about what was happening.”
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.