This Paper Artist Pays Homage to Her Chinese Background

When it comes to paper manipulation, Jacky Cheng is an undeniable master. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, her work is highly influenced by her elders’ cultural practices and duties performed for Chinese Ritual purposes. Based in Australia since 2006, Cheng is still very much in dialogue with her Chinese heritage, questioning the notions of “home” and “belonging” through her medium of choice. 

According to Cheng, her chosen materials are of the utmost importance when it comes to delivering her message. “The process could mean that I take tiny, little pieces of paper, and I glue the bottom, and stick them on to each other, and I cut around it or vice versa,” she relayed in an interview with Arctic Paper. Piece-by-piece, the artwork grows until a pattern is discerned. Through it, her history and tradition is kept alive.

“I’m afraid that I will disconnect with my culture one day, and I don’t want to,” she admitted. “One of the aspects to preventing that is to keep making the artwork that I do.” Cheng further explained that her significant concern is about correlating and weaving narratives from her native experiences whilst mapping the esoteric and social relationships of her origins and her newfound home, environment, and social surroundings—a lot of weight to carry on one small piece of paper.

According to Cheng, her love of paperart is tied to her grandmother’s practice, using an ancient Chinese art form where you stack and fold paper made of bamboo, and then burn it as a sacrifice to ancestors and gods. “My grandmother would fold and fold, and then she would cut it and a little Chinese character appeared,” she recalls. “It’s a lost art, since no one figured out how she did it. I do regret that I don’t know how to create them, but I’m very glad that I got that experience from my grandmother.”