Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Astonishing origami exhibit displays dance of art and science

By William Lee Adams, for CNN
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
In the 1950s, newcomers to origami relied on books with instructions to learn the craft. Today enthusiasts can learn how to fold via Youtube. This may be reducing regional variations in the craft. In the 1950s, newcomers to origami relied on books with instructions to learn the craft. Today enthusiasts can learn how to fold via Youtube. This may be reducing regional variations in the craft.
HIDE CAPTION
Shakti
Elephant
St. Michael The Archangel
Owlets
Red Eyed Frog
Rabbits in Motion
Kiwi
South African Lion
Vole
The fashion dress
Event Horizon
Asymmetry
Nudibranch
Constrained Bowl
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new exhibition in New York showcases the art of origami
  • Those who practice the discipline say it bridges science and art
  • Today, origami artists use software to help them design their intricate creations.

(CNN) -- When origami enthusiast Uyen Nguyen discusses her art, you quickly understand that it is about a lot more than folding paper.

"In many ways it has been therapeutic," she says. "I find the process of folding paper to be almost meditative.

"Origami can be used to create incredibly realistic forms, not just to the likeness of say, an insect, but down to the exact species of that particular insect with proportions of its body segment true to real life. At the other end of the spectrum, you can mold paper to create the most abstract of forms beautiful because of their inherent structure instead of their likeness to real life forms. As someone interested in both science and art, I love that origami bridges the two."

Worldwide movement

Now Nguyen is bringing her passion to the people of New York City.

As someone interested in both science and art, I love that origami bridges the two.
Uyen Nguyen. origami artist

For the exhibition Surface to Structure: Folded Forms, which will take place at New York's Cooper Union from June 19 to July 4, Nguyen has gathered more than 130 works from 88 artists around the world.

The exhibition includes adorable rabbits folded by Malaysian origamist Ng Boon Choon, and a realistic rendering of a field mouse by American Bernie Peyton.

But it also includes "St. Michael -- The Archangel", a more ominous work by Vietnamese origamist Tran Trung Hieu. It shows a winged angel carrying a sword.

The exhibition marks the 55th anniversary of the 1959 exhibition Plane Geometry and Fancy Figures -- the first origami exhibition held in the United States, which also took place inside Cooper Union.

So far Nguyen has raised more than $24,000 of the $32,000 she needs to cover the cost of shipping the works, organizing security and building display cases.

Origami can also be used to make avant-garde fashion creations, such as this one by Czech designer Hana Coufalova.
Courtesy Christopher Bierlein.

Collectively the works demonstrate how origami artists are pushing the boundaries of technique and style.

Transcending language barriers

In the 1950s, Japanese organist Akira Yoshizawa helped popularize the art by creating a universal system of diagramming, which involved arrows and illustrations rather than words. His book allowed people across the world to learn the craft and to easily construct pre-existing designs.

But today artists have moved beyond that, with many using software that helps them dream up and then fold their elaborate works.

In many ways it has been therapeutic. I find the process of folding paper to be almost meditative.
Uyen Nguyen. origami artist

"Most origami involves folding one sheet of paper into some final form," Nguyen says.

"Modular origami uses multiple sheets of paper, folded into identical units, and takes these units and interlocks them, without cuts or adhesive, to obtain a final form that is usually very angular and representative of geometric solids. A couple of my designs add embellishments onto the surfaces of these polyhedra."

Regional variations in the art are becoming smaller and smaller as more people learn about origami via the Internet.

However, Nguyen says that she observed a few patterns among artists while curating her exhibition.

Vietnamese artists tend to be masters of wet folding, which creates soft, gentle bends rather than sharp creases.

"Their styles can be somewhat minimalist, and there is so much beauty in their simplicity," she says. "The Japanese tend to be more calculated and precise with their folding, which can allow for a huge amount of detail and complexity. I think the European style of origami lies somewhere between these two extremes."

Read more: Origami -- a perfect blend of math and art

Read more: Amazing technicolor coats of Sydney Opera House

Read more: Intricate gems from Malaysia's golden age of jewelry reveal cross road of cultures

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0130 GMT (0930 HKT)
Singapore's World Architecture Festival opens this week with entries from more than 50 countries.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0917 GMT (1717 HKT)
The pools of Hollywood A-listers include infinity-edge marvels and oceanfront stunners from the likes of Ralh Lauren and Cindy Crawford.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1028 GMT (1828 HKT)
Artist reveals the endless artistic possibilities of the humble plastic brick to stunning effect.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Lukas Feireiss, editor of Imagine Architecture, spotlights the surreal architecture you wish existed.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
For one weekend Londoners peek inside the most prestigious private residences in the capital.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
From Maori to ancient Celtic designs, our forefathers really knew how to do body art.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
New and bizarre concepts for bathrooms are finally arriving to meet modern challenges.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0951 GMT (1751 HKT)
Ornate attire and ancient rituals - striking photos record the extraordinary world of Bolivian spirituality.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1009 GMT (1809 HKT)
What kind of font are you? Which do you find most attractive? And how can this help with your love life?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
World-renowned typographer Alan Kitching commemorates the pioneers of poster design.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1451 GMT (2251 HKT)
Rare whisky is becoming a popular investment, with limited editions selling for six-figure sums across the world.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
The first living creature sent to space was a dog. With stamps and toys, 'Soviet Space Dogs' provides insight into the bizarre world of the gravity defying canines.
ADVERTISEMENT