Mariapaola McGurk (affectionately known as MP), is a Johannesburg based artist, and is one of only a handful of artists in South Africa who specialise in the fine craft of paper cutting artworks. MP’s interest in paper cutting began many years ago when her uncle brought an original Chinese papercutting artwork as a gift. The artwork was only A5 in size but the detail achieved on the black piece of paper and the fragility of the work intrigued her, and started a lifetime journey of exploring and pushing her skills in this craft.
Her artworks can take weeks to complete, with no way to speed up the delicate process. "‘There are no short cuts in this artform. All I have to work with is a piece of paper and a cutting knife. When I am cutting, I am forced to breathe slower, to calm down; and to fully embrace the moments, the seconds. The work is realised through many, many hours of focus, patience and accuracy. A wrong cut can mean starting all over again".
In the process of artmaking, MP states that the greatest value to her was learning a new language that could be spoken without words. “A language that I hope resonates with others along this journey”, she says. “The viewer of art works plays a very important role in the art journey. They validate what artists do in isolation; they become the eyes, the interpreters, the empathizers”.
MP says that her inspiration lies everywhere, from tree-tops and water, to kind gestures and honesty. The concept behind MP’s latest collection reflects her journey through this pandemic. Feelings of loss, fragmentation, and despondency. “That fragmentation became evident in the artworks and the cutting of paper to release the imagery…You are stepping into my mind - stepping into how I perceive the world and how I try to make sense of it… The paper cutting process is the only thing that allowed me to get through the challenges and turmoil of 2020 - the process, the time, the focus clears my mind and helps me find the ground again.”