When seeing Matthew Shlian’s paper structures for the first time, you may be taken aback by the amount of time, patience, and skill that must have been involved. That’s bewildering enough but what is more interesting is the background to the crystalline, fractal patterns he creates.
With as much scientific query as artistic, his work considers the engineering principles at work in paper sculpture. Similarly to how you might trace the root of naturally forming patterns to fundamental mathematical truths, Matthew reveals the beauty in physics and displays it in his work. Here, he explains his process more.
“Hi, I’m Matt. I fold, cut, and glue paper for a living.
I do design work for Apple, P&G and Ghostly International. I am working on two NSF grants right now using paper folding as a way to understand micro systems engineering. I teach at the University of Michigan, show my work at galleries and museums and give lectures and workshops all over.”
“In my work I use paper, tyvek, computers, plotters, laser cutters, bone folders, CAD, x-actos, PVA glue, tweezers …”
“As a paper engineer my work is rooted in print media, book arts and commercial design. Beginning with an initial fold, a single action causes a transfer of energy to subsequent folds, which ultimately manifest in drawings and three dimensional forms. I use my engineering skills to create kinetic sculpture which has lead to collaborations with scientists at the University of Michigan.”
“We work on the nanoscale, translating paper structures to micro folds. Our investigations extend to visualising cellular division and solar cell development. Researchers see paper engineering as a metaphor for scientific principles; I see their inquiry as a basis for artistic inspiration. In my studio I am a collaborator, explorer and inventor.
I begin with a system of folding and at a particular moment the material takes over. Guided by the wonder, my work is made because I cannot visualize its final realization; in this way, I come to understanding through curiosity.”
© Matthew Shlian, 2012