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Meet Valentine Louafi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Valentine Louafi.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
When people ask what I do for a living, my answer is: I cut paper!
I am a French papercut artist.
But it has not always been the case. Here is a short story.
I have been working as a graphic designer for big companies for many years until I realized that it was not what I wanted to do in my entire life. I loved the creative part of that job but was not in tune with the make-more-profit part. I needed to escape from that corporate world for my mental health. I quitted my job. With two kids to raise it was not an easy decision but I knew I had to. Without knowing what would happen next. It took me one year to fully reconnect with my heart and art, and I promise to myself to create a life I don’t want a vacation from.
Reconnected to my buried artistic soul, I decided to make a living from my art. And stuck with this idea. I didn’t give me any other choice than to succeed.

From my little town in the South of France, I challenged myself to create an Instagram account and post something every day. A few months after, an art gallery based in London, thanks to the hashtags, saw my paper art and invite me to exhibit. I didn’t even have reached 100 followers at that time!

It was in 2016, it has been the beginning of my professional art career and I am now exhibiting in NYC since 2018.

Please tell us about your art.
Back in time, I studied visual arts and 2D animated movies and graduated from Aix-Marseille University in the South of France. My Master’s thesis encompassed the representation of silhouettes in animation movies and shadow theaters. This thesis deals with the expression and visual transcription of the body movement, through the prism of the silhouette art. Silhouette art fascinates me due to its delicate sharpness. Its complex simplicity and strong contrasted nature evoke endless depth and meaning.

This will set the foundations of my art: art made of pure lines, lights and shadows, drawn to the essential.
Define as a paper lace-maker, I made papercutting my specialty. It’s an art of balance and an art of emptiness. To reveal the subject, you need to remove material. To build with the void. To build with the empty space. Void is necessary, in all existing things. From the atomic scale to the Universe scale. Negative needs positive, light needs shadow.

It’s an ode to minimalism. I always thought that creativity is powered by constraints. With such limited tools at disposal, blades and paper sheets, you need to be more creative. This pushes me to develop my techniques on a constant basis.

My favorite subject is by far portrait. I’m inspired by people. Mostly by indigenous cultures from around the globe practicing body art and body modifications, as a ritual, esthetical or societal purpose. The initial idea was driven by a will to highlight and magnify the diversity of the comprehension of what we call beauty. Maybe it’s kind of me doing my part for the preservation of ancient cultural practices. My art is an out of time-space where bridges between ancient and new cultures are created, protecting and giving thanks to ancestral knowledge.

I wanted my art and life in tune. I live a minimalist and anti-consumerist life.
My art doesn’t require a lot of supplies: blades and paper. Regarding the blades, I started using Xacto blades but I needed a great amount as they breakfast. One day, during an exhibition, a person who appeared to be a fervent supporter of my art, came to me, told me she was a nurse and that she could provide me with unused sterilized blades from the hospital they have to throw away otherwise. I liked the idea so since then, I haven’t buy any blades!
Concerning the paper, I was using traditional paper made in cotton. I wanted to be self-sufficient and decided a few months ago to create my own paper. I make my own recycled paper using various used paper, rolls of toilet papers, leaves, flowers, herbs, fabrics, etc… I also learned to create organic colours to tint the paper. I can say now that I am a sustainable artist!

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
I am concerned about waste and wanted to apply the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle – to my art practice. I have the project to give workshops to incite people and other artists to be conscious of their own production of waste.

As an artist, you have a public voice and a responsibility. You want it or not, your voice has an impact, and it is a tool to use. If it can change the life of even one person, it’s worth the engagement.

The best compliment someone made me is “thank you to inspire me”. At that time, I was not even aware I could inspire people, my goal was just making art. But the life of someone somewhere could be impacted by what I was doing. I came to the realization that I needed to be part of the change. Since then, I started to pay attention to my speech and my practice.

For example, I speak more easily about being a mother artist with two kids. Not only it can give hope to all single mothers who don’t find the support they deserve, but also I think it is important to show kids that they can pursue their dreams. They saw me struggling and never give up. They are my best supporters. And I’ll support any of their dreams. My daughter wants to become a gymnastic Olympic champion, I just said, ok, let’s make it happen!
I want to show that you can manifest and create the life you want.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
They can see my art in person at the art gallery Carré d’Artistes, Bleecker Street in Manhattan, NYC.

I have a website
I like social media, when used wisely it creates powerful communities where great projects can emerge
Facebook: Sahalala cuts paper
Instagram: shalalacutspaper
I am a member of the Paper Artist Collective, a global community of artists with a shared passion for creating beautiful things from the paper:

I recently open an Etsy Shop to sell original papercut artworks, linocuts printed on my paper and to sell my handmade papers as a lot of people ask me to. So, if you want to support me, go to my Etsy store and buy something even some sheets of paper will help!

It will allow me to continue to create, experiment and thrive.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Valentine Louafi

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