Li Hongbo demonstrating, how his paper sculptures work.
Even for a book editor and designer, Li Hongbo has an unusual attachment to paper. “I love it and collect it,” he says. He also does increasingly audacious experiments with it. The installation Paper (2010) began when Li Hongbo bought one of the “honeycomb” paper balls used for festive decorations in China and took it apart to see how it was made. “I realised it’s really quite simple,” he says. “Yet the flexibility in terms of shape and properties is amazing.” His take on this craft tradition is indeed amazing, and it is made entirely of common paper. With the help of an assistant, Li Hongbo stuck more than 30,000 sheets together with carefully placed stripes of glue to form what look like two large blocks of balsa wood. Using an electric saw, he carved these stacks into identical human figures. One he leaves intact, except for a toppled head; the other is stretched out like a vast accordion, its torso and limbs looping around the gallery space like a gigantic Slinky toy. Many visitors find it hard to believe that it ever looked anything like its upright twin. The artist hopes the work will awaken viewers to what captivates his own imagination: “the endless possibilities of paper.” -
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