Artist Matt Shlian is great at screwing up. A self-described papercraft engineer, Shlian designs stunning 3-D paper sculptures that fall somewhere between origami, pop-up books, and Minimal Art — many of them happy accidents.
Sometimes “I begin with an idea for movement and try to achieve that shape or form somehow,” he tells us. “Along the way something usually goes wrong and a mistake becomes more interesting than the original idea and I work with that instead.”
Good thing, because Shlian’s work is exciting for what it doesn’t do: adhere to a single aesthetic. Some of the sculptures look as free-wheeling and as organic as shells; others as precise and as geometric as a Sol Lewitt installation.
His creative process draws on both high and low technology — on the conveniences of the digital world (plotters, AutoCAD, and the like) and the tools of the analog world (X-Acto knives, archival paper, glue) to create work inspired by everything from virus structures to Brian Eno. That, in turn, gives Shlian lots of room to experiment. “I’d say my starting point is curiosity,” he says. “I have to make the work in order to understand it. If I can completely visualize my final result I have no reason to make it. I need to be surprised.” Watch the film above for more on how he works, then check out our slideshow of some of his best projects.