Au contraire! It is a paper sculpture created by Ching-Fang Wu of Chiayi, Taiwan. I find her creative work to be nothing short of remarkable. In order to achieve the look of realistic wicker for example, Ching-Fang weaves and braids strips of paper that she dyes herself to obtain just the right color.
Ching-Fang has concentrated on paper sculpture for nearly 25 years, but her interest in art began in childhood. Extremely shy, she was content to spend time alone drawing and reading. Her father insisted she pursue a practical occupation in high school, so she studied fashion design. Although Ching-Fang would have preferred to focus on art rather than garment construction and sewing, she credits fashion illustration classes on helping to hone her drawing skills.
Ching-Fang became a cartoonist in Taipei after graduation (she worked on The Smurfs!) and later an art designer and text editor for a publisher of children's books. Her introduction to paper sculpture occurred while pursuing unique ways to illustrate books... this led to practicing an art form about which she became intensely passionate. Ching-Fang returned to Chiayi to work as a freelance designer, utilizing her paper sculpture talent for commissioned projects.
Noticing there was a lack of Oriental-style paper sculpture, she focused on it as a theme. Her first exhibition was held in 1992. A few years later she submitted work to worldwide art competitions, winning awards in the first two she entered. However, Ching-Fang found the most enjoyment in simply exhibiting her work. Explaining the methods she uses to gallery audiences and the media helped her to overcome persistent shyness.
Ching-Fang remains very fond of classical Chinese poetry that she learned and loved as a child. The subject matter of her sculptures often relates to these poems, as well as memories of growing up in rural Chiayi.
She has collected an enormous variety of papers, and through experimentation has found that each type has a special use. For example, soft Japanese cotton paper lends itself beautifully to clothing.
She begins each sculpture with a sketch, sometimes drawing it again and again until she is satisfied. Portions of the sketch are traced onto colored paper and cut out. These pieces might then be rolled, folded, or creased to capture realistic emotion. Each figure is composed of half a dozen layers or more. She glues the elements onto a background and adds color with pastels and/or paint to create certain effects and depth.
She describes her paper sculpture as 2.5D in which she moves forward some of the figures in a scene to create an authentic perspective, as would a painter. This means that the main character is larger than the ones behind it.
Currently, Ching-Fang teaches paper sculpture techniques in southern Taiwan and shares tutorials on Instagram where she has found an enthusiastic audience. She has written three books on paper sculpture and has created hundreds of sculpted art pieces.
Paper sculpture portrait by Ching-Fang Wu of her husband and son
Here is a nice video that shows Ching-Fang at work in her studio, another video interview with English captions, and an in-depth article. See more examples of her work on Instagram (@ching_fang-wu).