Our June Artist of the month goes to paper cutter Valentine Louafi whose delicate and complex figurative works breathe new life into the tradition of paper silhouettes.
"I am a paper cut artist. I cut paper, I cut the world. My blade is my brush. Humans are my inspiration."
Where do you make your paper Art?
I’m French but currently based in the United States, near New York City. I don’t have a specific space to create, as I’ve been constantly moving these past few years. But I also don’t need a lot of space to create so I can work in my living room, bedroom, outside... wherever I feel like working in the moment.
How long have you been working with paper?
I started my professional art career as a paper cut artist in 2016, with my first exhibition in London. This was the jump start of everything. However, my love for papercutting began much earlier in art school in 2007 when I was studying silhouette art and shadow theaters.
My Master's thesis was about the “Queen of Scissors”—Lotte Reiniger. She is a pioneer in animation film, and in 1926 produced “The Adventures of Prince Achmed”— the oldest feature-length animated film. It is entirely made with black silhouette paper puppets that she hand-cut with tiny scissors. I had the chance to visit the museum dedicated to her work in Tubingen, Germany. I started cutting silhouette portraits and puppets afterwards.
How would you describe your approach to paper art?
The images I'm drawn to are representations of silhouettes. I create my paper cuts by first looking at the empty space. Once I begin cutting, it's like an ode to minimalism made of pure lines, light and shadow reduced to its essential. Their delicate sharpness, complex simplicity, and strong contrasted nature evoke an endless sense of depth and meaning for me.
Where do you find inspiration?
People…humans…I am fascinated by the human form and want to highlight and magnify its beauty in all its diversity.
What are your favorite papers to work with?
I mostly use Arches paper—a traditional high-end French brand. I use their 185 gsm rough watercolor paper. This paper is both thin enough and strong enough at the same time and is my ideal combination to cut with ease.
I also make my own papers, composed of any kind that I recycle with additions of leaves, herbs, and flowers I gather from nature walks. A range of colors are obtained by mixing the pulp with spices, tea or other natural dyes. I would like my art to be the more sustainable and zero waste possible.
What tool could you not live without?
My surgical bistouri (scalpel) and surgical blades, which I get directly from a hospital, given to me by a nurse who is also a collector of my art.
What is the best thing about working with paper as a medium?
I live a minimalist life and I like my art to be minimalist too. I like to think that you don’t need a lot of resources to create masterpieces.
Magic can come from a single sheet of paper and a blade. I always thought that creativity is powered by constraints. With such limited tools at your disposal, simply blades and sheets of paper, you need to be more creative.
Who are your favorite paper artists?
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working with two French art galleries who sell my art in Sedona, Arizona and Saint Germain en Laye, France.