‘Finding the pattern’ – Delicate and slow paper cutting process



When the Covid-19 pandemic hit artist and business owner Mariapaola McGurk, the world stopped.

At the time, she was running a business in Johannesburg, paying staff salaries, studying towards an MBA and raising a family.

The pandemic forced her to close her business and move out of town.

McGurk, who has been an artist for 20 years, has expanded his body of work into the little-known medium of paper cutout.

“I work with thin paper and cut out the work. It’s a very delicate and slow process,” she says. “I have been in this medium for 12 years and have only found three other paper cutters in South Africa.”

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The highlight of the past two years is currently on display at the Candice Berman Gallery in Riverside Bryanston, titled “Finding the Pattern”. This is his first personal exhibition.

Paper-cutting artist Mariapaola McGurk poses for a photograph during her exhibition, titled Finding the Pattern, at Candice Berman Gallery in Bryanston, March 9, 2022. The exhibition will run until March 24. Photo: Michel Bega

“When I grabbed my toolbox, I also grabbed a stack of portrait photographs of the staff, artists and collaborators who have worked with and visited our company, The Colored Cube,” says McGurk. “These faces served as a reminder of my daily life before confinement.”

McGurk’s interpretation of these portraits forms a large part of the exhibit. The paper cutting process involves cutting away the negative spaces so that the artwork becomes visible within the page, resulting in a very fragile artwork.

“I started playing with patterns to both hold the work together and allow the negative spaces to form the composition.

This technical solution led to a more conceptual questioning of the spaces between and what really holds us together.

“We live in intermediate spaces between important or special occasions. It is in these spaces that our lives come together.

paper cutting
A piece of paper cut art on display. Photo: Candice Berman Gallery

Without the pattern, many of these works would be impossible to complete.

The exhibition lasts until March 24.

Compiled by Michel Bega

About Debra D. Johnson

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