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How Sachiko Abe turns paper-cutting into meditative art

Artist Sachiko Abe invites us into a meditative world that she constructs from paper. 


Japanese artist Sachiko Abe first began cutting strips of paper in private, as a calming alternative to meditation. Nine years later, she began to share the practice with an audience in her public works of art. The Cut Papers series combines her paper-cutting performance art with installation art and film.



Abe spends many hours cutting paper in front of her audience, slowly shredding the sheets with a pair of scissors. The wire-thin strips she produces measure barely a half-millimeter across. The paper is gradually transformed into a soft cloud of material that resembles hair, feathers, fur, foam, snow or cobwebs, depending on the work and the viewer’s imagination.


How Sachiko Abe turns paper-cutting into meditative art



Cutting up a single sheet of paper takes 40 minutes. Abe’s installations, which fill spaces with carpets, walls and mountains of paper thread, therefore represent several years of work. ‘The act of cutting is a constant exercise through which I organize and structure my random thoughts,’ she explained, introducing one of her exhibitions. ‘The rhythm of the scissors, the fineness and the length of the paper strip correspond to the process of my thinking, and its effect on the body. While essentially personal, Cut Papers is a necessary practice for me to formulate my relationship to the external world.’


How Sachiko Abe turns paper-cutting into meditative art



In the silent setting of each installation, speakers connected to her scissors amplify the cutting sounds she makes while at work, providing a hypnotic soundtrack that draws the audience into her world. The whiteness of the space and her own clothes helps viewers to focus on the small movements she makes as she cuts the paper. By helping the audience to focus on the slow, repetitive process, Abe invites the viewer, ‘to synchronize with the tide of emotion and contemplation created by the performance.’