Tanaka’s work represents an impulse that wells up from his innermost feelings without being influenced by any
traditions or trends. In his art one can discover hidden surprises not encountered in standard art, techniques and
During the 17th through 19th centuries of the Edo period, Kirigami became a refined art form. Kiri (to cut) Gami
(to fold a paper) was widely used in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist temples as offerings to the gods. Today
we see many forms of Kirigami used in children’s pop-up books, greeting cards and even commercial brochures.
Kirigami starts with a folded base, which is then cut with scissors. The cut paper is then opened and flattened
to make the finished Kirigami. Even with just a folded piece of paper and a pair of scissors, Kirigami requires an
uncanny understanding of bilateral symmetry.
Tanaka conjures fanciful creatures and realistic portraits which evoke twisted humor, playfulness, absurdity, and
general astonishment. Most of his motifs and subject matter come from super heroes, monsters, and robots found
in Japanese animation and comic books that have influenced Tanaka since childhood and which continues to
inspire him today. Tanaka usually creates commissioned papercut portraits live during his exhibitions entertaining
the audience with his talk, while his hands move as if having a will of their own as if possessed by some kindred
spirit. His unique take on the traditional Japanese art form of Kirigami has been featured in international exhibitions
and contemporary art publications. He now transcends his technique into creating picture-like geometric designs
characterized by continuous arches and lines surrounding and connecting the creatures, thus creating a balanced
space. From this one could progressively enter deeper levels of consciousness, and experience a mystical sense
of oneness with the ultimate unity of the cosmos.
Ryohei Tanaka was born in 1977 in Tokyo, Japan. He studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts BFA and
graduated in 2001. Recent solo and group exhibitions include “Cuttin’ It Up: More Paper Cuts by Ryohei Tanaka,”
Cullom Gallery, Seattle WA (2010); “Rockin’ Papers, Swingin’ Scissors: papercuts by Ryohei Tanaka,” Rowan
Morrison Gallery, Oakland CA (2010); and “Papershapers (group show of international paper artists),” Scion Space,
Los Angeles CA (2009). His work has been featured in “Killer Kaiju: Film’s Greatest Japanese Monsters, by Ivan
Vartanian,” Collins Design (2009); and “Pictoplasma 2: Contemporary Character Design,” Gestalten Verlag (2003).
Tanaka lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.