In October 2016, internationally celebrated psaligraphy (paper cut) artists - Professor Xiaoguang Qiao from China and Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle - visited Jersey with their exquisite exhibition of paper cut art. ‘Paper Dialogues – The Dragon and Our Stories’ comprises a nine-meter long Chinese, paper-cut dragon and seven large, intricate paper-cut dragon eggs.
‘Paper Dialogues’ is an artistic collaboration that tells the story of Xiaoguang Qiao and Karen Bit Vejle’s quest in search of dragons – mythical creatures that connect China and Norway, which have played a significant role in both cultures.
The exhibition was housed in a purpose built temporary gallery space within the Assembly Rooms of the St. Helier Town Hall, where the paper-cuts were encased in glass with lights shining through them, highlighting the intricate details of the caligraphy whilst casting beautiful shadows on the walls and floors. On display for the first time in Great Britain, the exhibition had previously been exhibited to great critical acclaim in Beijing (Today Art Museum), Shanghai (Liu Haisu Art Museum), Oslo (Vigeland Museum) and Trondheim (National Museum of Decorative Arts and Design).
Steven Laffoley-Edwards created the lighting design for the space and an original soundscape was specially commissioned for the exhibition. Jack Chown, a Jersey-born and London Based Producer and Composer who trained at University of Oxford and Abbey Road Institute composed the imaginative score, which was dispersed around the room by a series of speakers in reference to the dragon and her seven eggs.
During the exhibition’s two-week run in Jersey, over 5,000 people, including 600 local students, came to view the work, which proved to be a huge source of inspiration for islanders.
‘It’s amazing how paper can make you feel so much. All those details made me think about life as a magical place. For that, thank you’
‘I have returned again and again to listen to the podcast and properly absorb and reflect on the meaning and symbols in the work – stunning, reflective and beautiful. A wonderful use of this community space.’
‘The perfection of this art form has true presence. On first sight there are no words to describe it as it speaks to the heart. The music and lighting and installation takes one to another realm. A heavenly octave. Sincerely meant with love to both artists and all involved. The beauty evokes tears of joy and an opening of the heart’
‘This is one of the most wonderful and inspiring exhibitions I have seen. Well done to all involved and a special well done to Jersey for bringing it here’
‘Amazing exhibition, it really shows how Art can bring people together despite cultural differences and languages’
“It made me ecstatic just looking at those pieces of art because they were so beautifully neat and detailed and some of them had so many different shades of colours”
However, this was just the beginning of the paper-cutting legacy that ensued in the Island since the exhibition.
During their time in Jersey, Professor Xiaoguang and Karen Bit Vejle ran a combined Masterclass to teach seven local artists how to paper-cut. With their new skills they will create their own pieces of paper-cut work and will be responsible for igniting a huge community outreach programme led by ArtHouse Jersey with local school children and the general public, titles ‘Paper Talks’.
Paper Dialogues was made possible through a grant from the One Foundation and the States of Jersey and was supported by Jersey Heritage, the Parish of St. Helier, Signtech and Normans.