When artists create art made from paper, it is referred to as paper sculpting art. Paper sculpture artists can create a range of different artworks, such as paper busts, paper statues, and even abstract art made from paper. There are even some paper artists that have taken this art form to the next level, creating some of the most famous paper sculptures in the history of art. Join us below, as we reveal our list of famous paper sculpting artworks and artists!
Table of Contents
- 1 Our List of Famous Paper Sculptures
- 1.1 The Tuileries (1979) by Gilbert and George
- 1.2 Paper Plates (2008) by Hamra Abbas
- 1.3 Sorrow (2009) by Sher Christopher
- 1.4 What Lies Beneath (2011) by Gabby O’Connor
- 1.5 Vortextural (2013) by Jen Stark
- 1.6 No Title (Troublehead) (2015) by Peter Callesen
- 1.7 Bust of Michelangelo’s David (2015) by Li Hongbo
- 1.8 Magic Circle (2017) by Rogan Brown
- 1.9 Mountain Gorilla (2021) by Calvin Nicholls
- 2 Notable Paper Sculpture Artists
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Our List of Famous Paper Sculptures
Producing paper sculpting art is a complex and challenging process as paper sculpture artists need to make sure that the artwork is stable and won’t degrade quickly.
Paper, being a rather fragile material to use for making sculptures, needs to be used in a very specific way, as well as approached with a great deal of precision and patience. Many people consider origami, the famous Japanese art of folding paper into various forms, to be a type of paper sculpting art.
There is a significant distinction between paper sculptures and origami; unlike the original Japanese origami, paper sculpture is constructed from many pieces of paper rather than just one.
In paper sculpting art, paper is not only the material object used but also the subject of the piece. Let’s explore the best examples of famous paper sculptures and the paper sculpture artists that created them.
The Tuileries (1979) by Gilbert and George
|Artist||Gilbert and George (est. 1967)|
|Medium||Charcoal on paper sculpture|
|Dimensions (cm)||Not specified|
|Location||Museum of Modern Art, New York City, United States|
Gilbert & George is a collaboration between George Passmore and Gilbert Proesch. Gilbert & George are most known for their brilliantly colored graphic-style photo-based works, but they also made many “living sculptures” between 1970 and 1974. In 1974, they produced their most renowned work, The Tuileries.
They include themselves as subjects in a number of their artworks, providing their bodies as the canvas for their artistic expression and wearing similar outfits to present themselves as a unified creative entity.
The application of a grid format is one of their distinctive styles. They split their artworks into small rectangular panels, each with a unique picture or element. When these panels are merged, they form a bigger, more unified whole. They have continually challenged traditional art styles and media.
Paper Plates (2008) by Hamra Abbas
|Artist||Hamra Abbas (1976)|
|Location||Created in a paper factory in Islamabad and mass distributed|
This series is a subtle illustration of Abbas’s unique ability to mold craft with technology. It combines traditional geometric designs from the iconography of Islam with high-tech manufacturing thanks to her work with an Islamabad paper plate business. Her paper sculpting art consistently demonstrates an extraordinary sense of matching materials to concepts. Hamra Abbas, who was born in Kuwait, is an internationally recognized paper artist who at present resides in both Boston and Lahore. She works in a variety of media, including paper collages, soft plasticine sculptures, paintings, and videos.
She regularly transforms traditional symbols and culturally charged images into often amusing compositions.
Her works seem both delicate and solid at the same time. Abbas’ Paper Plates, which are visually similar to the Victorian lace doily, use cultural icons to discuss manufacturing and globalization ideas. Hamra Abbas uses a variety of mediums to investigate identity, cultural history, and religion. Abbas examines the complexity of Western and Islamic culture in a globalized society, frequently hybridizing or recontextualizing past and modern aesthetics.
Sorrow (2009) by Sher Christopher
|Dimensions (cm)||Not specified|
Sher Christopher, a British artist who is inspired by literature, life, music, and films, appreciates the challenge of producing only art made from paper. She is able to communicate complex feelings through delicate shaping using techniques that are nothing short of extraordinary, such as this young woman whose grief is almost palpable. The sculpture is very personal to the creator. Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009, and had just a few months left to live. It was the most tragic news Christopher had ever received. She couldn’t work during that period and reported feeling completely lost.
This image kept appearing in her dreams and thoughts, and it was the only one that could reflect her emotional turmoil.
The setting in the artwork is empty, merely functional, just as the world seems around you all you feel is despair and profound loss. The artist believes that black is a color that provides us security in times of loss since we don’t bother about what to wear or how we appear. The red shirt refers to her mother, an incredibly brilliant, creative, passionate, and amusing person, and the red also represents the artist’s anger and grief at how the sickness claimed her life. She never meant for anybody to see the artwork since she felt it was too personal. Yet, a couple of individuals who saw the sculpture were deeply moved by it, and she ultimately acknowledged that she needed help dealing with her grief and sadness. So sharing her artwork was one of those first steps.
What Lies Beneath (2011) by Gabby O’Connor
|Artist||Gabby O’Connor (born 1974)|
|Medium||Tissue paper, dye, lacquer, and staples|
|Dimensions (cm)||Not specified|
|Location||House of Walwera, Auckland, New Zealand|
What Lies Beneath is an eye-catching artwork that resembles an overhanging iceberg. However, it will not give you frozen fingers or make your breath frosty as it is not really made of ice. Instead, the eye-catching piece was made using blue-green staples and tissue paper. This paper sculpting artwork was first exhibited in the House of Walwera in Auckland, New Zealand, and is made up of thousands of little triangles which were coated in shellac. The light streamed through the artwork like stained glass, creating an ethereal glow that is both peaceful and mesmerizing.
O’Connor’s art includes large-scale site-specific pieces using paper, rope, and light, as well as collaboration in theater.
Typically, she creates art out of common materials. O’Connor frequently collaborates with partners that include everything from scientists to community organizations. Her sculptures are intended to function both as installations and as a bridge between science and art. As a result, there can often be an intentional educational aspect to her pieces. The artist studied sculpting at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne and completed her master’s degree at Sydney’s College of Fine Arts. She now lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Vortextural (2013) by Jen Stark
|Artist||Jen Stark (born 1983)|
|Medium||Installation of hand-cut acid-free paper, foam board, and glue|
|Dimensions (cm)||106 x 88 x 76|
Vortextural is a well-known paper sculpting artwork by paper artist Jen Stark. As with many of her works, Vortextural features a spiraling vortex of colors that draw the viewer into the work. Jen Stark’s art resembles psychedelic vortexes, multi-colored gateways that are able to transport you to another realm. Her creations encompass full-color spectrums made from laminated paper, radiating outward from a prismatic center. These contrasting colors and the repetitive nature of her art provide a sense of motion and cyclical renewal as if you are looking into a hypnotic tunnel.
Stark’s art centers around this hypnotic feeling, both in terms of its aesthetics and the time-consuming process of stacking hundreds of layers of materials.
Once completed, the paintings appear to be endless, as though their colors never actually come to an end. The concept of infinity is difficult to understand, and Stark relishes the challenge. She believes that little fragments of infinity, such as the never-ending structures of particles and fractals, are the building elements of nature. She believes nature, geometry, and mathematics are all related. Although Stark is most recognized for her paper sculpting artworks, she also works with metal, wood, paint, and animation.
No Title (Troublehead) (2015) by Peter Callesen
|Artist||Peter Callesen (born 1967)|
|Dimensions (cm)||Not specified|
No Title (Troublehead) by Peter Callesen features a three-dimensional head made from paper and is one of the artist’s most famous paper sculptures. Peter Callesen is considered to be one of the most well-known paper sculpture artists, and he has impacted many of the artists who work in the medium today. Peter Callesen uses white A4 paper to make a large array of objects, as well as installation. He turns paper into amusing sculptures, animals, people, or natural motifs.
According to Callesen, the standard white A4 sheet of paper is a material that we all have a connection to while also being indifferent, allowing us to fill it with different interpretations.
This thin white paper provides his works with a fragility that emphasizes its themes of tragedy and romance. Callesen’s paper sculpting artworks explore the mystical transformation of a flat piece of paper into forms that grow into the space around them. Callesen’s works demonstrate all of the possibilities of art made from paper.
Bust of Michelangelo’s David (2015) by Li Hongbo
|Artist||Li Hongbo (born 7 January 1974)|
|Dimensions (cm)||118 × 70 × 60|
Li Hongbo has often been cited as the world’s most famous paper artist. He is a world-renowned artist known for his amazing paper sculpting art pieces. His sculptures are typically assembled with glue, and he produces blocks of paper that he forms into various people, objects, and paper busts of Classical Greek and Italian statues by gluing together up to tens of thousands of separate sheets.
The Bust of Michelangelo’s David is one such example. It could easily be misidentified as a porcelain reproduction of a famous sculpture. Only upon careful inspection does one see that the sculpture is entirely constructed of paper.
Li Hongbo’s work has been presented around the globe, and it may be found in both private and public collections at many prestigious museums and art organizations. His career as a book designer and editor sparked his initial interest in all forms of paper. This, together with his sculpting background and affection for the expanded honeycomb structures of traditional Chinese paper decorations, motivated him to experiment with paper sculpting art. While they appear to be solid, a little pull exposes their Slinky-like capacity to bend, stretch, and morph into a number of bizarre and funny deformations.
Magic Circle (2017) by Rogan Brown
|Artist||Rogan Brown (born 1966)|
|Dimensions (cm)||96.5 x 94 x 12.7|
Bacteria can be found all around as well as within us: a thriving environment that, along with fungi and viruses, forms our microbiome. Rogan Brown’s elaborate paper sculpting artwork envisions what it could look like to observe such a microbiological colony up close: a kaleidoscope of repetitive designs and natural shapes. Rogan Brown studies natural structures and organic development. Brown’s works are mostly made of paper; he cuts the material with a scalpel knife, and the task of making a single piece can often require months.
Rogan Brown’s art combines art and science by depicting cell structures, bacteria, diseases, vegetal shapes, fossils, coral, insects, shells, and so on. Paper cutting was chosen as a medium for his investigation of our shifting experience of nature because of its simplicity and accessibility.
The transformation of an everyday material into something aesthetically impressive reflects and simulates the fundamental shifts in our perception of the familiar world brought about by science. The big hand-cut pieces are separated from sheet after sheet of paper in painstaking scientific form using a scalpel knife, the laborious act of cutting mimicking the long time-based mechanisms that govern nature.
Mountain Gorilla (2021) by Calvin Nicholls
|Artist||Calvin Nicholls (born 1966)|
|Dimensions (cm)||81 x 71|
Calvin Nicholls, a Canadian artist, produces multi-layered paper sculptures. Since 1986, he has spent 4 weeks to 2 years on each work. Drawings are used to create a pattern for the components, which are then cut out with x-acto knives and scalpels. Nicholls’ work has been shown all around North America, and he has produced over 500 paper sculptures to date.
Nicholl’s explorations with paper sculpture started in 1984, and paper sculpture soon became a significant feature in the majority of his design clients’ projects and campaigns. It was just a matter of time until his lifelong passions for art and animals collided.
He had recently finished a bird of prey with expanded wings for Noranda Recycled Papers when he realized how well the layering of feathers matched the craft of paper sculpting. His first limited edition print series debuted in 1989 in Ontario at the Buckhorn Wildlife Festival, and in 1992, the nationwide Trust commissioned 15 wildlife sculptures for a nationwide campaign.
Notable Paper Sculpture Artists
Now that we have completed our list of famous paper sculptures, we would like to introduce you to some paper artists that are worth keeping an eye on. UK-based artist Helen Musselwhite, draws inspiration from nature, particularly the English countryside, which she adores. Her colorful, unique, and cheery creations put a smile on anyone’s face. In 2005, artist Zoe Bradley found her passion for paper while working on experimental hand-pleated displays for Michiko Koshino, the Japanese fashion designer.
Although her career in fashion looked promising, it was the use of paper as a medium that proved to be an essential turning point in her career as the first step towards the fascinating paper sculpting artworks for which she is now famous.
Zim&Zou are two Nancy-based French artists, Lucie Thomas, and Thibault Zimmerman. They studied graphic design together but subsequently opted to focus on installations built of handcrafted things made of physical materials such as wood, paper, thread, and so on, rather than computer design. They construct all of the pieces that make up their installations by hand, from sketching to cutting and assembly.
Naomi J. Kendall experimented with paper as a building medium as a child, aspiring to be a sculptor. Over time, the paper itself became the focal point. Her work has a three-dimensional feel to it since she cuts, folds, and weaves it by hand. Museum trips, colorful fabrics and ceramics, and the little corners of the world she explores all inspire her work.
Raya Sader Bujana dropped out of school after studying architecture in Barcelona and Venezuela to focus on what he does best and loves most: paper art. He has made stop-motion movies, commissioned works, and sculptures, collaborated with companies such as DOIY and Camper, and is now working on new exhibitions. His strong foundation in architecture, as well as his appreciation of nature and its complex patterns, influenced his work.
African Talking by Ajibola Adekanmbi; Adeedris, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Maud Vantours, a graduate of the Duperré school in Paris, works and lives in the city. Color, material, and patterns all play an essential role in her work, particularly paper, which has become her favorite material. She sculpts it in three dimensions, layer by layer, superimposing paper and colors to produce inspiring volume patterns. Maud’s work elevates a commonplace element into a work of art.
In today’s digital age, paper art can seem more intriguing than ever. A simple sheet of paper has many possibilities: it may be folded, laser-cut, stacked, and sculpted into paper statues, paper busts, and many other weird and wonderful forms. Due to the nature of paper, it is not an easy material to work with and requires many years of practice to be able to master the art form. Maybe our list of famous paper sculptures will encourage you to find out more about art made from paper!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Paper Sculpting Art?
As the name implies, it involves crafting figures, scenes, or whatever else one desires out of paper. Many paper sculpture artists have arisen through the years and managed to take this everyday material and turn it into incredible works of art that take a huge amount of time to create. There are numerous online tutorials that will also show you how to make your own paper sculptures if you wish to give it a try.
What Is Art Made from Paper Called?
When paper artists make artwork using paper, it is called paper sculpting art. These works are often held together with glue or cut out of many layers of paper bound together. Some people have compared it to the traditional Japanese art of origami. However, origami is made by folding a single piece of paper, whereas these artworks are usually made from many pieces of paper that have been cut in various shapes and stuck together in some way or another.
Isabella studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English Literature & Language and Psychology. Throughout her undergraduate years, she took Art History as an additional subject and absolutely loved it. Building on from her art history knowledge that began in high school, art has always been a particular area of fascination for her. From learning about artworks previously unknown to her, or sharpening her existing understanding of specific works, the ability to continue learning within this interesting sphere excites her greatly.
Her focal points of interest in art history encompass profiling specific artists and art movements, as it is these areas where she is able to really dig deep into the rich narrative of the art world. Additionally, she particularly enjoys exploring the different artistic styles of the 20th century, as well as the important impact that female artists have had on the development of art history.
Cite this Article
Isabella, Meyer, “Famous Paper Sculptures – 9 Masterpieces Sculpted From Paper.” Art in Context. September 29, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/famous-paper-sculptures/
Meyer, I. (2023, 29 September). Famous Paper Sculptures – 9 Masterpieces Sculpted From Paper. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/famous-paper-sculptures/