Paper Dialogues

In October 2016, internationally celebrated psaligraphy (paper cut) artists - Professor Xiaoguang Qiao from China and Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle - visited Jersey with their exquisite exhibition of paper cut art. ‘Paper Dialogues – The Dragon and Our Stories’ comprises a nine-meter long Chinese, paper-cut dragon and seven large, intricate paper-cut dragon eggs.

‘Paper Dialogues’ is an artistic collaboration that tells the story of Xiaoguang Qiao and Karen Bit Vejle’s quest in search of dragons – mythical creatures that connect China and Norway, which have played a significant role in both cultures. In China, dragons have a long history; they are still a living part of Chinese culture and their images are adopted in architecture, everyday items and culture festivals – not least with paper cuts. In Norway, they have an important significance too: dragons are represented in Norse mythology, heroic legends, stave churches and Viking ships. Xiaoguang and Vejle have interpreted their own culture and history into their paper cuts in order to present it to each other and the audience in the form of a visual conversation.

Vejle’s paper-cuttings are rooted in a tradition beginning in China. But she brings another important influence to her work from her native Denmark, home of the legendary writer and renowned paper-cutter, Hans Christian Anderson, whose work is a source of great inspiration to her. The unexpected twists and turns in Anderson’s paper-cuts, the hidden innuendos, are also there for us to find in Vejle’s own work. She is highly respected in Europe, the only paper-cutter to have been allowed to work with Anderson’s precious scissors since his death.

The exhibition was housed in a purpose built temporary gallery space within the Assembly Rooms of the St. Helier Town Hall, where the paper-cuts were encased in glass with lights shining through them, highlighting the intricate details of the psaligraphy whilst casting beautiful shadows on the walls and floors. On display for the first time in Great Britain, the exhibition has already been exhibited to great critical acclaim in Beijing (Today Art Museum), Shanghai (Liu Haisu Art Museum), Oslo (Vigeland Museum) and Trondheim (National Museum of Decorative Arts and Design).

During their time in Jersey, Professor Xiaoguang and Karen Bit Vejle ran a combined Masterclass to teach seven local artists how to paper-cut. With their new skills they will create their own pieces of paper-cut work and will be responsible for igniting a huge community outreach programme with local school children and the general public. All of the work created (by artists, students and the community) will be exhibited in a celebratory showcase in 2017 titled ‘Paper Talks’. The exhibition will tell the story of the process and relations that have formed as well as what has been discovered through the work.

Paper Dialogues has been made possible through a grant from the One Foundation and the States of Jersey and is supported by Jersey Heritage, the Parish of St. Helier, Signtech and Normans.