After 500 hours of painstaking paper cutting, a local artist has shared the fruits of her labour: an installation taking viewers on a journey through Jersey's 12 parishes and her young memories of them.
Just over two years ago, Layla May Arthur knew nothing about paper cutting.
Passionate about storytelling and narratives, which stemmed from her love for books, she was inspired to bring knife to paper after discovering the ‘Paper Dialogues – The Dragon and Our Stories' exhibition in Jersey.
The touring exhibition by Professor Xiaoguang Qiao and Karen Bit Vejle made its British debut at the Town Hall in St. Helier in October 2016 and during their time in the island, the two renowned artists ran a series of master-classes to train local artists in psaligraphy, as paper cutting is also known.
Pictured: Karen Bit Vejle and Professor Xiaoguang Qiao inspired Layla May Arthur to try her hand at paper cutting.
Those artists then went on to teach community workshops, hosted by ArtHouse Jersey with local school children and members of the public, including charities, care homes and clubs. Layla, who was studying Art at Hautlieu at the time, attended one of those and she not only learned a new skill but also discovered a whole new passion.
“I loved the experience of the exhibition, the paper is flat, in two dimensions, but the shadow makes it a whole installation,” she explained. “It really appealed to me that it was two different artists with different perspectives and cultures.”
“You don’t need an artistic practice to understand paper cutting,” Layla adds. “Everybody can look at a piece of paper and appreciate the symbolism. It’s an art form accessible to all ages.”
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Video: Layla at work on one of her panels.
Since her first try at papercutting, Layla has gone on to enrol at the Minerva Art Academy in the Netherlands – a school she says she chose due to the variety of cultures it hosts – where she has been studying Fine Arts with paper cutting as her main focus.
‘The Paper Dialogues’ crossed her path again when she was commissioned by ArtHouse to create her own paper representation of the island, ahead of the exhibition being shown in Denmark.
'Jersey; My Childhood Home’ takes the viewer on a journey through all twelve parishes and includes Layla’s persona memories of each. It required more than 500 hours of work over four months, with Layla having to lie on the floor over the long pieces of paper to painstakingly cut out the very minute details in each panel with a scalpel.
Pictured: 'Jersey; My Childhood Home’ at the Centre for Paper Art in Denmark.
“This project really pushed me,” Layla said. “Before, I only worked on small formats. This one is six meters by two; it’s a really big difference. At first it was very intimidating, I wanted to reflect Jersey as a whole. It’s a really personal piece. The panels feature what I can remember of each parish. I grew up in St. Brelade, so it’s the first panel.
The panels will be brought together in a circle which visitors will be able to enter to experience “life on an island.” “The sea goes through each panel, so it emphasises the idea of being on an island,” Layla said.
Emboldened by her first big scale project, Layla says she would like to continue working on a big scale. “Now I have had the opportunity, I want to carry on doing big things,” she confessed.
“It has more impact when it’s big and you can stand in front of it. I want to continue to draw as well and combine other things with paper cutting, maybe installation work.”
Pictured: Emma Reid's 'Hoard' features a dragon guarding is caché of coins.
Having opened on 22 March at the Centre for Paper Art in Denmark, the exhibition also features the work of another islander inspired by the Paper Dialogues, Emma Reid.
Emma is a London-based 3D visual artist and fabricator who works with a multitude of materials ranging from silicone, resin and foam to leather and even hair. 'Hoard' is her first foray into working with paper.
Inspired by Emma's interest in folklore and fairytale, the piece represents Jersey, where she was born, while also tapping into the western tradition of the guardian dragon who, in tales dating back to the middle ages, guards over caves filled with treasure and gold.
Pictured: The mound was sculpted from pulped toilet paper layered into numerous moulds and dried.
The dragon stands tall, protective over its caché of coins, while traditional Jersey wares adorn the side of the hill - island produce such as the famed Jersey potato, milk, vraic (seaweed), wool and cider are joined by local delicacies including the donut-like ‘Jersey Wonder’ and the ‘Jersey Bean Crock’ casserole. The Parish Crests are also dotted across the mound.
The piece was created with processes adopted from Emma’s day to day work with materials like silicone and resin. The mound was sculpted from pulped toilet paper layered into numerous moulds and dried. Each individual item of treasure was painstakingly sculpted, and in keeping with some of the other works in the exhibition, the more familiar paper-cutting technique was adopted to create the surrounding sea and, swimming in it, the people of Jersey - perhaps the real guardians of Hoard.
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