Artist Ayumi Shibata practices the Japanese art of paper cutting to create layered, three-dimensional sculptures. By using dozens (and sometimes over 100) sheets of paper, Shibata crafts intricate cityscapes and forests that are compiled into hand-bound books and contained inside glass jars. When illuminated by light, the tiers of white paper glow to express a cinematic depth.
Not only is paper a convenient and inexpensive material, but it also has deep significance for the artist. In Japanese, the word “kami” means “god” or “spirit” as well as “paper.” Shibata is not intimidated by the blankness of a fresh sheet of paper and instead sees limitless possibilities. Each layer of paper art is cut out freehand, without the use of any pencil outline. All the artist needs to begin is the mental picture of the sculptural setting. Shibata tells My Modern Met, “I use my technique to express my thankfulness to the ‘Kami‘ for having been born in this life. I believe that through cutting paper, I purify my mind and soul.”
For the artist, the process of making the works of art is just as important as the end result. “White paper expresses the yang, light” explains Shibata. “(And) the process to cut expresses the yin or shadow.” In this way, she sees her act of making as embedding new life into every artwork. Shibata is so thorough in her paper art that she adds copious details to the artificial worlds that are unseeable even to the viewer—honoring the famous Japanese quote “the sun god is watching you.”
The artist hopes that her paper worlds can serve as a place people can communicate and coexist with Kami. “I cut out works while imbuing my wish that we can coexist without forgetting our gratitude and awe for all things and nature that support our lives,” says Shibata.
Scroll down to see more of Shibata’s layered paper art, and follow the artist on Instagram to keep up to date with her latest creations and upcoming exhibitions.