In our digital world of graphic wonders at a push of a button, there totally needs to be a place for the traditional handcraft of “Papercutting.” Luckily, Japanese papercutting artists Risa Fukui, has taken on a quite special task to reinvigorate this filigree art. Her amazingly elaborated graphical papercuts, dark and so very rich in every detail, will leave you in awe. Promise! PingMag visited Risa’s current exhibition at Gallery éf in Asakusa to have a chat with her.
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane
You used to belong to a papercutting club during your junior high school years and studied graphics at university. What made you return to papercutting again?
When I was a junior high school student, I wasn’t thinking of making papercutting my career. I loved drawing so I went to study graphic arts at an art college but during those years, there were times when I struggled to find my own style of expression. Around that time, there was a class on compositions using tonal colours (coloured papers) and partitioning of people’s faces and that made me go back to papercutting.
Your current style has a lot of graphic elements, is that because of those influences?
Yes, I had always perceived papercutting more as a graphic element rather than a traditional craft and I might not have been able to meet the challenges and press forward as I did if I hadn’t come from the graphic background.
“Black Jack” © 2007 risa fukui/phil
“Kami wo Kiru – Shetland Sheep Dog” © 2006 risa fukui/phil
Many of your works have the faces of animals or people as motifs. How come?
Papercutting doesn’t work without a good sketch drawing and I tend to be more motivated when I draw people and animals with a feeling of vitality rather than still life or inorganic objects. For the sketches, I need to draw numerous lines to bring out stereoscopic representations. In the cases of organic objects, they can express unique characteristics depending on the way you draw or combine those lines.
As junior high school student you created a work on the Buddhist deity Kongo Rikishi. It seems you have always had that type of aesthetics since your early days….
At the time, I thought the organic look of the muscles was really attractive and I even went as far as adding the blazing fire of awareness behind the standing deity too. (Laughs)
Your school days sound like full of promising signs. (Laughs) That’s where your aesthetics is coming from…
Maybe, it hasn’t changed in essence. (Laughs) In my second year of junior high school, I made a papercutting of an ear of a corn and the work was chosen to decorate the cover of a writings by the students. I remember having a lot of fun cutting out the fluffs of the corn floss. I really loved the delicate works and I could have gone on cutting it out forever if it wasn’t completed.
How long does one of your papercuts take?
That depends on the size and the motifs of the work, but the actual process usually takes one or two weeks. Once I start cutting out, I can’t make alterations any more so the composition of the original drawing takes quite a lot of time and the colouring process involves choosing sticky coloured paper like stained glasses and that requires much effort too.
Do you ever make mistakes while cutting out?
I concentrate a lot, so I rarely make mistakes.
This exhibition also features “TARACHINE,” your video work in collaboration with Studio 4℃. What was that about?
The initial theme was “seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) by women.” The main characters of the story is a mother with a mystical power and her child who is blind but has keen senses. It’s about the child recovering the eyesight but losing something else in return – the mother. The mother commits ritual suicide to fulfill her role of conveying the message of the god, so it is not supposed to be a tragic separation. I interpreted “seppuku” from the idea that the abdomen for women is a part of the body where succession of life takes place.
170 pieces of papercuttings were used for this film – that sounds like quite a task…
Video works that use papercuttings have been around for a long time and I had been taking it rather easily, thinking that the modern day CG technology should be able to make something interesting. However, when we actually made a test clip, all the goodness of the papercutting was lost and it looked like an ordinary animation, so I and the staffs produced the work after much trial and error, showing the shadows and the beauty of the lines in the original drawings and contriving different ways of colouring.
Risa working on the papercuttings for “TARACHINE” at Studio 4℃.
And the cut-out paper. Can you see how finely cut they are? See the larger pictures from here.
One of the papercutting works used in the video work “TARACHINE.”
Another amazing papercutting also used in “TARACHINE.”
How did you feel when you watched the finished video?
Video works require a long time to produce. I was worried whether I can finish it or not, but now I feel as though I have actually “given birth,” – as if it’s my own child. (Laughs)
Now, for this exhibition, the original papercuttings from your art book “KI RI GA” are also on display. Please tell us a bit about those!
They are the works I created since my last exhibition, four and half years ago; the works yet to be displayed in an exhibition. For this show, in an attempt to make the most of the dynamic space of this Japanese store house, I was more aware of showing the works stereoscopically by displaying the works from both sides and also capturing the beauty of the shadows rather than the usual planar displays.
Lastly, what is the appeal of papercutting?
It’s something that continues to mesmerise me. Personally, I think of papercutting as another self.
Risa, your beautiful works have touched our hearts today! Thank you!!
Note: Risa Fukui’s “KI RI GA” exhibition in Tokyo will be touring Sapporo. If you are in Hokkaido, don’t miss!
Papercutting artist, Risa Fukui. © phil
Risa Fukui Exhibition “KI RI GA”
Venue: Gallery éf (Asakusa, Tokyo)
Running until Sunday April 13th, 2008
Venue: HOKUSEN GALLERY
Address: 4th floor NC Hokusen Block bldg.
Minami 2 Nishi 2, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Date: Sunday May 11th – Saturday May 24th, 2008
Closed on Mondays