Art by a thousand cuts
April 2, 2015, 2 Comments
It translates literally as ‘scissor cuts’ but Scherenschnitte is an art form like no other. Incredibly intricate designs cut out with amazing detail and starkly presented, usually with black paper on a pale background. If you’ve never seen them before, now is your chance at an ongoing exhibition of Scherenschnitte, or Paper Cuts, in Zurich.
We probably all did it in primary school: fold a piece of paper into eight and then use (safety) scissors to cut out a pretty pattern. Open up the paper and you have a snowflake or a chain of people, or just a mess as the case may be. Take that principle and multiply it by a factor of a thousand and you have Scherenschnitte.
It apparently all began in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century, and originally the patterns were symmetrical. A typical Swiss theme was the Alpabzug, or procession of cows coming down from the mountains in autumn. More modern paper cuts use different colours and certainly aren’t always symmetrical.
And scalpels have replaced scissors so that the level of detail can be astonishing with strips of paper no wider than a hair giving an overall effect of looking like the most astonishing piece of black lace. Definitely a steady hand needed!
The most modern ones are more like actual pictures and less like lace, except they are still made of paper and cut out by hand. Some challenge you to look again and see something different, such as these three bodies dressed in stripes.
The Scherenschnitte exhibition is on at the Landesmuseum in Zurich until 19 April, and is open every day except Monday. It’s the perfect thing for a rainy Easter weekend, including Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
This is one Swiss tradition that you don’t want to miss.