- Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
Several months ago we featured the music video of Baha’i singer Shameem’s new song Under One Sun. Not only is it lovely music, but the whole clip showcases some amazing paper artwork, including a full-length dress made of paper! I had never seen this kind of artistry before, and it’s truly something to behold. The work is courtesy of the talented hands of Renée Farrant, a Baha’i from Western Australia who expresses herself and her faith through this deceptively simple medium in some extremely intricate forms, often marrying two and three dimensional pieces with light and shade. You can find Renée’s work online, and we asked her to give us some insight into the inspiration and process that goes into it.
Baha’i Blog: How did you get started in this medium, and what do you enjoy most about it?
Renée: We were in the midst of a major house renovation. We were living out of suitcases and all of my art materials were in storage. Trying to be resourceful, I turned to paper-cutting and paper collage. The love of working with paper was immediate. Perhaps it was also due to my admiration of making art from everyday non-traditional materials.
Also at that time, art became my coping mechanism for battling post-natal depression. In perspective, out of my darkness came a wonderful gift of light … in paper-white.
Working with paper involves techniques of cutting and folding with the challenge of keeping the paper together!! For what I do, simplicity is the most challenging and satisfying goal. The absence of chemicals and paint in the studio has a wonderful cleaning advantage.
I love the meditative, reflective, prayerful-like state. The moment I pick up the scissors, a calm-centreness takes over my busy mind. This reflective atmosphere allows me to immerse into this ‘divine pool’ of creativity, compositions and concepts. All solutions to my technical problems are sourced from this divine pool.
Baha’i Blog: What’s the process for creating these works like? How much experimentation is involved? And are you a prodigious recycler 🙂
Renée: My art is solely expressed through the use of paper. All works are hand made, labour intensive and involve a process of paper-cutting, folding, tearing, and weaving. I am a self-taught artist; thus, my art approach is highly experimental. For very challenging works, smaller prototypes are made in order to work out a ‘formula’ for the desired outcome.
As paper is a flat medium, the challenge for each work is to create depth, structure, colour and texture; resulting in works that straddle between ‘flat’ and ‘sculptural’.
The Baha’i principle of the oneness of humanity inspires most of my techniques. For example in one of my works, every leaf, stem and flower is seamlessly linked, belonging to the same origin and the work is constructed within the confines of a single sheet of paper (akin to origami).
In the near future, I hope to make some bespoke paper to add another facet in the sculptures. I have been collecting my paper scraps. (It is funny when I find a trail of tiny paper-cutting fragments in the supermarket,…ah! I have been through this aisle already!)
Baha’i Blog: For readers interested to learn more about paper artistry, what’s the best way to get started?
Renée: Just do it! Paper art is very satisfying and diverse. The initial capital and technology outlay is low; a pair of scissors, stanley-knife ( X-Acto knife) and a cutting board make a wonderful beginning. There is quite a number of books on paper art and paper cutting, demonstrating the incredible diversity of art made from the humble paper material. The skills picked up from paper art is transferable to children’s classes and junior youth activities. In the early days, just getting started called for courage; but once I realised that detachment is a handy virtue, I was happy to make and grow from my mistakes, after all, it is only paper!
Shown Above: This hand-made paper-cutting sculpture is untitled and was inspired by kids at a local school studying and memorizing this Hidden Word:
“O SON OF BEING! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee.” — Bahá’u’lláh
Shown Above: Singer songwriter, Shameem, wearing a paper-garment in the ‘Under One Sun’ music video.
It look about 3 months to make the paper-garment, each petal was hand-cut and placed in-situ one at a time. The entire garment was made out of cotton paper and weighs about 6 kilograms! The inspiration for Shameem’s paper-garment was purity, beauty and light, translating into layers and layers of white rose petals:
“The pure eye comprehendeth the sight and the meeting of God; the pure nostril inhaleth the perfumes of the rose-garden of bounty; the pure heart becometh the mirror of the beauty of truth.” — Abdu’l-Bahá
Shown Above: This papercut work was exhibited at ArtGeo Busselton celebrating the United Nations 2011 Year of Forests. It was inspired by this statement from the Baha’i International Community.
“Any solutions to the environment/development crisis must, therefore, be rooted in an approach which fosters spiritual balance and harmony within the individual, between individuals, and with the environment as a whole. Material development must serve not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.” Baha’i International Community, 1992 June 06, Earth Charter
Shown Above: “Illumine” was created for an exhibition at the Western Australian museum on Reimagining Peace (The Art of Protest). It was inspired by the 1985 statement from the Universal House of Justice, ‘The Promise of World Peace’.
And don’t forget, you can find more of Renee’s work on her portfolio site.
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