When you are a kid a pair of scissors, a folded sheet of white paper, a sparkle of fantasy and then comes the magic. Paper can be manipulated in a million ways and bended to our sincere imagination.Today a designer named Rob Ryan, with paper, an exacto knife and some patience creates a uber detailed world that has the same mysterious charm of a shadow theater from another era. He’s the master of paper cuts. Behind each piece, a long meticolous and consuming work until all the shapes, all the silhouettes, come together and that’s magic. Rob Ryan is extremely prolific in his work, so prolific that is not only selling some work through his website but he actually just opened a tiny boutique in London that stands with the name of “Ryantown” situated at 126 Columbia Road, E2 7RG, collaborated with Paul Smith in 2005 and published a (of course) illustrated book with Chronicle Books, “This is for you”, a book lenght valentine that is a powerful combination of poetry, graphic novel, and museum-quality art—but at its heart, it’s a simple yet timeless tale of love. You can visit his blog to dig into his work and daily inspirations and take a peak at the “behind the scenes” progress. But the influence that the fascination for paper cuts has on graphic design also breathes on the runways. It’s not a coincidence that Ryan’s work itself has been used in fashion or turned into fashion in different occasions (the collaborations with Paul Smith and Gary Page, a paper cut dress appeared on a issue of Vogue, an experimental hat commissioned for the “Hats” exhibition now up at V&A, a bunch of window displays). Just think about the pale creamy cotton dresses part of the spring/summer Fendi doll-like collection by Karl Lagerfeld that for the Italian fashion label envisioned elegant snowflakes-like cut out fabrics and accessories. The technique and the imaginery and the cultural references behind it can be turned into truly endless and always surprising shapes.
The fascination for paper is also embodied by an exhibition currently up at the Moma. Paper: Pressed, Stained, Slashed, Folded (until June 22) focuses on works on paper, including prints, illustrated books, and selected drawings, that explore and manipulate the materiality of paper itself. Many of the featured artists emerged during the 1960s and 1970s, when an interest in everyday materials and nontraditional processes fueled a desire to reinvestigate and redeploy some of the most familiar or humble mediums, including paper. Ed Ruscha and Dieter Roth created print editions by pressing food and other organic substances into paper. Lucio Fontana slashed and punctured the paper in his prints. Dorothea Rockburne executed a series of near-sculptural prints by folding and then unfolding large sheets of aquatinted paper. Other artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Tuttle, similarly embraced the delicacy and mutability of paper as a substance and a subject. The exhibition continues into recent years with ethereal works by Mona Hatoum, Ellen Gallagher, and Martin Creed, among others. For more infos about the exhibition, visit the Moma website.
Images: Detail of R.Ryan’s book cover/ Fendi s/s 2009 print ad/ Laser cut leather dress by Emilio Pucci/ Paper cut dress by Rob Ryan (Vogue)/ Little flowers falling experimental laser cut microfiber textile by Moroso at Studio Tord Boontje/ Experimental mourning hat by Rob Ryan for the Mad Hatters opening event for the”Hats” exhibition at V&A/ Handbag customized by Rob Ryan/ Clutch by Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi s/s 2009/ Total black look by Marni’s s/s 2009 collection