How I Got Here: Paper artist Matthew Shlian

For over a decade, Matthew Shlian has been working magic on paper. As he prepares his first monograph, he chats with CR about the influence of science, and how he creates visual illusions with nothing more than clever cuts and folds

It’s hard to believe Matthew Shlian’s work is made only of paper – or, sometimes, that his pieces are even real. Their achingly precise geometry resembles digitally generated forms, and you’d assume that’s what they were if it wasn’t for the tiny bits of texture that give the game away. It’s a trick that’s earned him a place in galleries around the world, but also made connections with scientists interested in how Shlian’s manipulation of paper can inform their research. In return, Shlian’s work as a visiting research scholar at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has shaped his own process, and as a result many of his pieces resemble fractal forms, or objects viewed under the microscope.

His first monograph, Unfolding, is soon to be publishing by crowdfunding platform Volume, and brings together over a decade of work, including a peek behind the scenes of how sketchbooks, AutoCAD and cutting plotters come together to create each piece of work. As well as a standard edition, superfans can get their hands on a special version of the book with a 7” vinyl created in partnership with record label Ghostly International.

Ahead of the book’s release, Shlian spoke with CR about how taking apart pop-up books got him started, and why he loves blurring the boundaries between science and creativity.