It’s always a treat when artists like Matt Shlian are able to incorporate their passion for science and math into their art. His interest in abstract geometric forms clearly influences his work though the paper engineer insists that he finds inspiration for his paper art from everything in life. He says, “I have a unique way of misunderstanding the world that helps me see things easily overlooked.”
Shlian folds and sculpts a variety of paper-based materials, most commonly using acid-free paper, to construct each of his intricate pieces. As involved as they appear to be, one would assume that there’s a great deal of preparation put into assembling each sculpture, but the artist admits that it is an unpredictable process. “I begin with a system of folding and at a particular moment the material takes over. Guided by wonder, my work is made because I cannot visualize its final realization; in this way I come to understanding through curiosity,” he says.
“Often I start without a clear goal in mind, working within a series of limitations. For example on one piece I’ll only use curved folds, or make my lines this length or that angle etc. Other times I begin with an idea for movement and try to achieve that shape or form somehow. Along the way something usually goes wrong and a mistake becomes more interesting than the original idea and I work with that instead. I’d say my starting point is curiosity; I have to make the work in order to understand it. If I can completely visualize my final result I have no reason to make it- I need to be surprised.”