Paper Tiger: Artist Lauren Collin

SLIDESHOW: Lauren Collins makes paper blossom and quiver using delicate scalpel cuts.

French artist Lauren Collin found her niche when she started using her father’s stomatology scalpel to carve paper.

A young artist, Lauren Collin sculpts paper like no other. Out of one layer, she creates blossoming fields of petals. Galerie Dutko in Saint Germain, Paris, is exhibiting her intricate paper cut-outs this spring.

Billionaire: Where did you discover your passion for the infinitesimal?
Lauren Collin: I believe I’ve always had a passion for the infinitely small: when I was young, I was equally attracted to scientific matters and drawing — which I turned to every chance I had. I used to look at nature through the microscope, inspect and observe every detail. In parallel, I drew. Today, my work appears to be the missing link between the two disciplines.

How did you go from 2D drawings to sculptural 3D artworks?
I started using scalpels that belonged to my father, a stomatology surgeon. My mother painted sets and interior decors, which inspired me to attend Penninghen [a Parisian graphic design and architecture school] and Les Arts Déco [a museum of decorative arts in Paris where you can study courses]. I was afraid not to make the right choice: I didn’t really have any preconceived idea of what I wanted to do. I worked on paper and with paper. I would ruffle it and see unique forms appear. During my years at Penninghen, I produced many models; I would always make them out of paper, using different qualities of paper to refer to different materials. I would lacerate their surface to give them a texture. For me it was like carving volumes, half way between sculpture and drawing.

How important is it to choose the right tool?
My father’s scalpel helped me gain precision. A cutter isn’t as handy. From him, I learnt how to use different blades; each practitioner has his favourites. I chose number 11, which is very thin and enables supple and little cut-outs. Number 23 is used in heavy surgeries: it enables bigger, rounder cuts. In between, number 10 offers the precision of number 11 combined with rounder cut-outs. Sometimes, depending on the paper and the intensity of the drawings, I break blades; each of my artworks implies strength and fineness. Once I have the right tool in hand, movement takes over; with practice, motifs have evolved. For me, every piece reflects the tool, the hand and the experience.

Colour seems to be absent from your artworks — is that by choice?
The idea of working with black and white made sense to me, from the start, like opposites that attract. I didn’t want to add anything, but rather concentrate on the purity of the white. Stick to something essential. Black came as a more subtle addition; it is the result of a block printing watercolour, and has different density depending on the number of layers applied. Sometimes, I also play on the movement the water-block printing induces. The surface, whether mat or shimmering, contrasts with the white layer that is revealed, underneath, through cut-outs. Black and white mingle to compose an optical illusion, depending on where the viewer stands.

How do you manage to make the paper ‘blossom’?
At first, it almost seems as if each petal has been glued into the surface. Yet, it is the first layer of the paper that, incised, stands out from the rest. If one were to glue everything back together, one would have one simple sheet of paper. The multiple cut-outs give an idea of profusion and seem to quiver when exposed to light.

Lauren Collin’s work will be exhibited at Galerie Dutko, 
11 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, from 23 March until 14 May.

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