Ethereal Illumination Brings Three-Dimensional Cut-Paper Worlds to Life

Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata

While some paper artists challenge themselves to create work from one sheet of paper, others employ many pieces to make their art. Japanese artist Ayumi Shibata explores the capabilities of this two-dimensional medium by layering numerous pieces of paper cutouts together to create vibrant three-dimensional environments. She then brings these carefully sheared worlds to life by casting an ethereal light over the rows of white paper.

Shibata traces her interest in paper art to when she relocated to New York. Soon after moving to the metropolis, she began going to church to escape the noise and to practice meditation. “One day, I opened my eyes after the meditation and saw beautiful colored light flooding the floor through the stained glass,” she tells My Modern Met. “It reminded me of my primary school art class, in which we cut black paper and stick colored cellophane behind it to make a paper stained glass piece.” Shibata completed the same childhood project when she got home and fell in love with the process. Since then, she has been creating bigger and more intricate pieces.

These paper destinations are created from Shibata's imagination and often merge architectural structures with natural beauty. “I imagine places where we (humans) use technology to restore the natural environment; they are future destinations where nature, humans, and all living things coexist and live in harmony,” she continues. Lush trees and leafy vines overlap with traditional buildings, enveloping the cityscape with soft lines and a dreamy ambiance.

While all of these environments are exquisite on their own, the real magic happens after Shibata adds the light source to her art. “When I finish a piece, I light it up from various angles until I feel and see the light imbue the piece with life,” the artist explains. “Paper represents Yin and the material world, whereas the cut-out space represents Yang and the immaterial world. Light symbolizes spirit and life.” All of the numerous fine details, including the many windows, are illuminated when Shibata shines yellow rays through the paper. “I believe my artworks are places where the material world and immaterial world meet, and contain a message that all of us are connected.”

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.

Artist Ayumi Shibata practices the Japanese art of cutting paper.

Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata

She adds layers of paper together to create three-dimensional environments.

Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata

Then, Shibata adds light to bring her creations to life.

Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata Paper Art by Ayumi Shibata

Ayumi Shibata: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Ayumi Shibata.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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