“The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper and re-imagines the world”, said Malcolm Gladwell, an English-Canadian journalist, best-selling author and speaker. Nothing could fit better Calvin Nicholls, himself a Canadian too, who has dedicated his activity to the crafting of mind-blowing paper sculptures.
When we think of paper sculptures an idea immediately comes to our minds: origami. This is, in fact, a centuries-old traditional Japanese art of paper folding whose known origin dates back to the 17th century. It has, in the meantime, been highly spread outside Japan – especially during the 19th century – and has recently evolved into a modern art form. However, what Calvin Nicholls does goes far beyond folding paper. Unlike origami, which are made out of one only piece of paper, Nicholls’s works consist of multi-layered paper sculptures meticulously cut out with scalpels and X-acto knives, carefully following the musculoskeletal features of animals – his favourite theme. The result is highly beautiful, unusual and detailed art pieces, which can take him from four weeks to two years to complete.
In fact, paper sculpture is an artwork which is created by shaping and/or combining different types of paper by means of a technique that requires great precision. In the case of Calvin Nicholls, his stunning art pieces are so accurately worked that they look like scrupulously carved animal depictions. Actually and as a result of his personal interest in art and wildlife, his main themes are animals and natural elements. Within the scope of his activity as freelance designer, it was when he completed a commission from Noranda Recycled Papers, in the mid eighties, consisting of a bird of prey with outstretched wings, that he realised how well the layering of feathers suited the art of paper sculpture.
From then on, he was to dedicate himself to this kind of art production which has become his exclusive activity since 1986. Nicholls mainly creates monochromatic pieces since, according to himself, he wants “people to be drawn in to explore the work and to consider the medium.” He further states that he continues “to experiment with the interaction of light and shadow on the surface of plain paper in off white or in multi-step gray scales equivalents”. Once the sculptures are completed and put on exhibition, lighting is adjusted to bring out the resulting subtle form and consistency.
In fact, Calvin Nicholls’s artworks turn out to be highly attractive to viewers for their body, texture and appearance, which quite irresistibly invite touching to check how far they are looking at actual paper sculptures or if they are only gazing at some dream-like sort of visions on paper.