Art by a thousand cuts

April 2, 2015, 3 Comments

Scherenschnitte 1

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.

Scherenschnitte 3a

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.

Scherenschnitte 2

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.

Scherenschnitte 5a

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!

Scherenschnitte 7

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.

Scherenschnitte 6

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.

3 Comments on "Art by a thousand cuts"

  1. Iris MacLaren Thursday April 2nd, 2015 at 05:02 PM · Reply

    Saw this a couple of weeks ago! It’s just amazing!

  2. Stella Thursday April 16th, 2015 at 01:33 AM · Reply

    Here in the residental area was a neighbour who made some easier scissor cuts than these unbelievable ones you show us here. And she said it’s easy, anybody can do it. Er?

  3. Graham Smith Wednesday December 20th, 2017 at 08:55 PM · Reply

    Down here in the French-speaking part of Switzerland there’s a little epicentre of papercutting around the small town of Château-d’Oex, with a very active population of talented local artists. my favourite (I have to declare an interest, I’ve worked with her) is Marianne Dubuis, who breaks from the more traditional patterns and manages to bring huge character and life to her creations. You can feel the cowbells swinging … Some of her works and the other local artists’ creations can be seen at the local museum. Starting to sound like the tourist board …

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