Friday, August 3, 2007

Interview With Paper Artist

My favorite activity as winter approaches (it does seem odd to even think about winter now, in the heat of summer) has always been folding up white paper and snipping out triangles with scissors to make paper snowflakes, which I then cover my windows with to welcome winter. I've done this nearly every year since I was first allowed to play with safety scissors. Over the years, the patterns have only gotten slightly more intricate, and I still feel the same childlike glee as I snip and snip and cover everything around me with confetti. It's a fragile, precise process, and I am in awe of those who take the art far and beyond the paper snowflake or chain.

Paper is so delicate, yet sturdy, so crisp and white and clean, yet often barely noticed as we have surrounded ourselves by it.

Once a tree, now an empty canvas, next a novel, or a drawing, or a grocery list, its potential is infinite. It all starts here.

And often with simplicity comes grace. I recently came across, the Etsy shop of Nicholas "Kolya" Manion, a Visual Communications student and paper artist in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, who also has a background in architecture. His works are as delicate as the paper stock they are made from, yet strong and visually sound as the skylines which they depict.

I recently had the opportunity, through the power of the internet, to interview this artist who literally lives on the other side of the world from me. Here's a snippet (excuse the pun!) of our conversation:

Pollyhyper: How and when did you begin working with paper?

Kolya: I've always loved the tactile qualities of paper, but I've only been working exclusively with it this year. My cut-outs actually came out of a life drawing class; I was frustrated that I wasn't able to capture the three-dimensionality of a human form with my stick of charcoal, and so I started cutting into my drawings to bring them to life. At the same time, I didn't want to create straight sculptures out of paper... I found the interaction between two- and three-dimensional form far more interesting.

Pollyhyper: Tell me about your background in architecture and how that comes into play in your artwork.

Kolya: I studied architecture for three years at the University of Queensland. I loved it, but in many ways I found it a bit limiting. Model-making and the creative process were always the aspects which interested me most anyway, rather than the problem-solving elements of plumbing and construction etc. I'm able to explore those areas more freely as a fine artist and designer.

Architecture and my paper works actually overlap to a surprising degree. In the architectural field there's a long tradition of using paper/cardboard "marquettes" (mock-ups) to quickly and easily explore ideas of space and form. Using paper I'm still able to explore these architectural ideas, but on my own terms. So best of both worlds really...

Pollyhyper: What are your other interests? Travel is obviously a big one.

Kolya: My other main interest is graphic design (which is part of my current degree), so I spend a lot of time drawing/printing/designing etc. And my wife is a start-up fashion designer, so I love that too!

I absolutely love to travel. This past Christmas Rose and I went to Europe for the first time, spending a month living in London and a fortnight in Paris. In Paris we stayed in a flat that used to be Picasso's dining room! He actually painted the view from our window, which was pretty extraordinary! I've also visited Japan, and my brother used to live in Hong Kong so I've spent some time there too. I'd love to travel more, but sadly flights from Australia to anywhere really are very expensive. Long-term plan is to move to London; it's such an amazingly creative place.

Kolya's A3 skylines were actually born from another collection of work; he started by collecting found objects from around his city, and became interested in the stories behind them and what they represented. One of his very first pieces was a silhouette of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, cut out of a flyer for the Brisbane Russian Community Easter feast. From there, it was a natural progression to create a wider skyline of Moscow (at top), and then on to other iconic or 'world' cities which speak to everyone. Kolya has already completed a piece from the New York skyline, and is currently working on Seattle and Chicago - he's open to suggestions!

Skyline of Dubai carved into a Russian 100 Ruble note by Kolya Manion

Kolya has recently started a new series of pieces using different world currencies. On his Etsy listings, he sums it up perfectly:
Money circles the globe
forming links between cities
on opposite sides of the world.
I must give them a voice
and share the stories they tell...
If you find your way to Brisbane, you may likely come across one of Kolya's works in a bus shelter or pinned to a notice board. He says "I like the idea of releasing my work back into the world that inspired it. Plus it gives people a little taste of my larger works." His next goal is to make 20 pieces, each over 1 meter (3 feet) high and leave them in bus shelters.

To see more of Kolya's beautiful work, visit him at his Etsy shop, as well as his website, (Be sure to let him know you read all about him on my blog!)


Fresh Peaches Designs said...

Wow, what amazing work! I love the International Currency series.

Jan Z said...

This is a nice interview - what cool work!

saumya said...

Woah that is really some inspiring work.

I'm trying to do more research on Nickolya for my art project investigation but his Etsy page doesn't have any pictures. And the website wont work.


pollyhyper said...

Saumya, thanks for the comment! Have you tried to contact him directly?

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Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!