Artist Matthew Shlian transforms ordinary sheets of paper into incredible three-dimensional tessellations. Using a series of complex, repeating folds, Shlian’s paper sculptures take on a life of their own. Many feature spikes that jut from a flattened surface and the individual elements are positioned to move in giant waves across the entire piece. Previously, Shlian’s work was clad in a black-and-white color palette. While you’ll still find it in his portfolio, he has since introduced vibrant hues. This includes techniques like color marbling, which add a bit of texture to the normally smooth paper.
Shlian is formally trained in art, and his original focus was on ceramics—but it didn’t last long. “[I] realized early on that I was interested in everything,” he recalls. “I studied, glass, painting, performance, sound and by the end I had a dual major in ceramics and print media.” He began using paper because of its immediacy. “I also loved the geometry,” he says. “Figuring out the pieces was like solving a puzzle. I understand things spatially; I have to see something to make sense of it.”
Eventually, one of Shlian’s instructors began to buy him pop-up books so that he could reverse engineer their construction. His love of paper only grew from there, and his interdisciplinary path has made him open to trying new approaches in his art that still inspires him today. “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.”