Shu Kubo, a contemporary Japanese artist who works in kiri-e, or papercutting, will be honored at Philadelphia’s City Hall on November 15 as part of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia’s annual meeting. Kubo, who is part of the revival of papercutting in Japan and abroad, will create an original kiri-e rendering of Shofuso during his visit.
Historically, kiri-e were created with black or brown washi (a paper made from mulberry and other plant fibers), which was then cut with scissors, pen knives, and steel needles. Unlike other Japanese paper arts, including kirigami and origami, kiri-e are never folded, and artists create their pieces using a single piece of paper.
Kubo was first exposed to kiri-e as an architecture student in Osaka, and approaches the traditional practice with a modern touch. Like other artists, he works with hand-dyed washi, and cuts his pieces on a rubber mat using papercutting knives. His detailed scenes capture his love of Japan, as well as the beauty in both natural and built spaces. Kubo often enhances his work with multiple layers of washi, pastel and acrylic paints, or textural elements such as fabric and sand. The end result are images that appear both two- and three-dimensional and are reminiscent of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints of urban life.
Since 2009, Shu Kubo has been an ambassador of Japanese arts by the Japanese Cultural Affairs Office. His artworks were featured on Japan’s postage stamps and on New Year’s greeting cards, and he has participated in exhibitions in Tokyo, Kyoto, Shanghai, Moscow, Tehran, Manila, Havana, and New York. This will be his second visit to Philadelphia following a visit in 2010.