Paper sculpted into flowers, hats and fans for Japan House exhibition

Japanese designers, architects and artists have made more than a dozen precisely sculpted paper objects for Subtle: Delicate or Infinitesimal – an exhibition exploring the material’s potential

A far cry from bulky swatch books, the show emphasises paper’s shapeshifting nature. Many of the pieces are impressively fragile, such as a series of delicate ‘hats’ made by Kenya Hara, who’s curated the show. Hara used laser-cutting technology to make the pieces, which he likens to tiny organisms viewed through a microscope.

There’s also flowers made using pencil sharpeners, pieces of intricate paper lace, and a collection of miniscule petals. The exhibition includes objects that reflect on the material’s cultural and historic links, which means there’s some more traditional pieces such as ribbed fans and envelopes.

Top and above: paper flowers by Misawa Haruka
Spring by Junya Ishigami, photo by Amana Group
Tone of Gravity by Noiz Architects, photo by Jeremie Souteyrat

To encourage exhibition-goers to focus on the show, the space has been kept mostly quiet except for an irregular two-note sound – similar to that made by ‘shishi-odoshi’ water fountains found in Japanese gardens.

Subtle is the third exhibition at Japan House, and has its roots in Japan’s Takeo Paper Show – a annual trade event that showcases materials, and invites creatives to make paper objects in response to a particular theme.

I Hate U I Love U by Irobe Yoshiaki
The Geometrist by Tomoko Azumi
Control by Ryuji Nakamura, photo by Amana Group

Japan House opened earlier this year, as part of an initiative run by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to showcase all aspects of the country’s culture. It’s already hosted exhibitions exploring architect Sou Fujimoto’s work, and a showcase of Haruki Murakami book covers.

Subtle: Delicate or Infinitesimal is open until 24 December;