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On The Same Page

Words:

Edd Norval
January 10, 2019

The Japanese artform Kirie is, like origami, an economic artform that requires a great deal of studious practice and patience. It's the rare, yet incredible, method of creating intricate portraits cut from only one single sheet of paper.

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Nature is a key inspiration for kirie artists who allow their paper constructions to become an extension of the natural world. When the piece is complete, they take on a life of their own. Whether it be trees, flowers, plants, leaves or animals, they have a seemingly kinetic energy. They're realistic but without forsaking artistic flourish.


The painstaking process can be over in just one simple mistake. Thus, it takes a long time and is best viewed as a therapeutic addition to everyday life, whether a job or a hobby, it has a ritualistic aspect that makes it meditative. Japan is a country with a rich cultural history and has developed into a major capitalist power. The streets can be chaotic, loud and fast. The art of kirie seems like a relic from the past that has weathered new eras of modernity.


Thought to have stemmed from religious practice from around 610 AD, kirie's development coincided with the increase in Japanese made paper, specifically a high-quality and dense type that is more resilient to the structural exhaustion that the cutting enforces on the sheets.

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Predominantly a two-dimensional artform, although possessing the quality of three-dimensions, there are exceptions. Well-known in the highly textured and intricate flat style, which is more traditional, are Shiho K. Rice and Akira Nagaya.


Building on these foundational ideas though is contemporary artist Nahoko Kojima. Under private tutelage in Hyogo, she became essentially classically trained in the form from childhood. A move to Tokyo helped her develop an artistic style that breaks from the usual boundaries of kirie.


Eventually moving to London, Kojima embarked on a successful career paper-cutting and has since collaborated with Bulgari and developed the form into a three-dimensional discipline where her structures hang, softly and imperceptibly swaying - enough for them to seem alive. It is through her work, as a pioneer of the form, that kirie lives on and has received a considerable amount of exposure.


Like other forms of Japanese art, from bonsai to woodcarving and tattooing - patience is one of the key aspects. Dedication, more than anything else, is the route to mastery. Japanese culture, as fast and chaotic as city life can be, reveres the archetype of the master. It is a position in society that is well respected and to get more masters, there must be innovation. For her part in this, Kojima has been widely recognised. It's a process that's evolving slowly and steadily, refining and shifting. It's a staple of Japanese creative culture and emblematic of the country's values.

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