Matthew Shlian’s Art Boils Down to Cutting, Folding, and Gluing

Describing himself as a paper engineer, Matthew Shlian uses papers and glue to create stunningly complex geometric forms that remind of an optical illusion more than anything else.

Having studied, glass, painting, performance, and sound, and with a dual major in ceramics and print media, in the end, Shlian found himself drawn to the simplest of mediums: a piece of paper. “I began using the title ‘paper engineer’ after I had worked in the industry for several years, focusing on paper as a medium,” he explained in an interview with Yatzer.

According to Shlian, he loved the immediacy of paper as a medium. He also loved the geometry, treating it as a sort of puzzle waiting to be solved. “My interest in geometric form led me to paper – then paper led me to pop-up books,” he explains. “Mechanical movement in paper engineering led me to architecture and design, which in turn led to my collaborating with people outside of the art world.”

And while the creative process is extremely varied from piece to piece, each project begins with the same starting point: curiosity. “The definition of artist is shifting,” says Shlian. “People who think that the artist works alone, wearing a beret and painting all day, are mistaken in this notion. It takes a lot of resourcefulness to succeed as an artist. Someone close to me once joked that it took me ten years to become an overnight sensation.”