Emma Van Leest (37) is a paper-cutting artist from Melbourne, Australia. She graduated from RMIT University with a Fine Art Degree (Honours) in 2000.
Her Art in her words:
“My mother taught me to sew when I was quite young, and since then I’ve enjoyed the repetitive and meditative nature of hand-scale sewing. Over time I became aware of the feminine traditions which I was connecting to, in particular the transformative nature of handicrafts – the potential to transform an everyday and normal object or material, such as plain cotton, paper or wool, into something beautiful, valuable and useful that would be treasured for generations.
Paper cutting is the perfect embodiment of this idea. The skill is developed over time, through the repetition of many thousands of cuts. In India, paper cutting is practised by a small group of artisans whose families have been the custodians of the skills and knowledge for generations. Their practice is bedded in devotion to the Hindu god Krishna, so everything they do in their daily working becomes an act of devotion by default. In the same way, I began to find my own practice, involving many solitary hours of careful and painstaking cutting to be an embodiment of my devotion to the act of creating, and in particular, of creating something beautiful from the everyday.
Paper was invented to tell stories, so it is the perfect medium to convey my fantastical imaginings. What began as a collage project became miniature theatre sets and evolved to what I do today. I collect imagery from a variety of sources – gardening magazines, medieval illustrations, Baroque landscape paintings, Chinese and Indian comic books, Mughal and Persian miniatures – and create fantastical montages of imagined fairy worlds.”