When it comes to paper art from Japan the first thing that comes to mind is the amazing works of origami and kirigami. These days the amazing paper sculptures created by Chie Hitotsuyama is taking the world by storm. She takes old newspapers and cuts them into strips that she rolls into thin tubes that she uses to upcycle the papers into a wide variety of animals both wild and domestic.
Her process creates amazingly realistic animals that are alive with texture and personality. The paper tubes twist and curve in highly organic ways to mimic the artistry of nature. This is something origami, while incredible, could never manage.
While each sculpture appears primarily gray from a distance, a close-up view shows that all of the colors present in the newspapers are also present in the animals. This is a long way from the days when newspapers were just black and white and read all over.
Her technique employs elements of mosaic along with sculpture to obtain the proper texture of some animals. Other pieces are put together like precision placement of pins in a pin cushion. The thickness of each piece of rolled paper is determined by the size of what she is working on at the time.
Newspaper is the only material she uses, with the occasional exception of a piece of wood or two to help support the structure of the larger pieces. The smaller pieces are made entirely of newspaper. The only other product used in her creations is wood glue for the assembly of the pieces.
Each piece is entirely and meticulously hand crafted. This requires an incredible level of sustained concentration, not to mention serious attention to detail. Realism is the goal, in spite of the unusual medium.
Hitotsuyama's first piece was a rhinoceros. Its official title is "Cries and Songs from Your Heart are Still Heard Today." This piece was inspired by a trip she took to a national park in Zambia which struck a chord deep in her soul. It was there that she encountered an injured rhino and was told about the poachers that hunt the rhinos. The visit also inspired her to share a deep celebration of life and how the lives of animals are no less than our own so more animals followed.
Each piece captures a moment of time in the everyday lives of these creatures. Their facial expressions are enigmatic and touching in their realism. It is hard to look at them and not be moved. “More than anything else, I’m particular about the realistic feel of the animals,” explained Hitotsuyama.
The artistic method is called "string-paper." These strings are carefully glued together to create the animals. Sometimes the strings are twisted to help create additional texture, such as for the scales of the iguana. The newspapers were originally intended as an information-sharing medium and now they continue that purpose in a vastly different way.
Hitotsuyama brings the paper back to life with the message of life. While most pieces remain just newspaper colored, others require a touch of extra coloring -- such as with the amazing red-faced macaques. To manage this she had to find a large amount of newspaper with red in it to accomplish this coloring. These pages also have print in black or gray and she uses these changes to help reflect subtle changes in gradations of color to help create the light and shadows of the faces.
Hitotsuyama is originally from the Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan and, after studying design at Tokyo Polytechnic University, she has set up her studio in Fuji City of her home prefecture. Her works have been exhibited in many places all over Japan and they are now being exhibited overseas as well.
Ironically, Hitotsuyama Studios is located inside the remodeled warehouse of an old paper strip manufacturing plant that Hitotsuyama's family once ran. This means that as a child she had an abundant amount of paper to play with, so it is not surprising that she chose paper as her medium of choice. I guess the leaf really doesn't fall far from the tree, though it may totally redefine what it means to be a leaf.
“I have the feeling that what I’ve felt up to this point has joined each other to shape my current works. Creating is the same as learning to me. I’m hoping to achieve personal growth through what I will see and hear from this point on, through my encounters with many artworks and individuals.” May she continue to pass her personal growth on to us through her beautiful expressions of life through animals.
Images via Hitotsuyama Studios