After an inspiring chat with her graduate professor, Pippa Dyrlaga decided to exchange pens for knives and begin cutting elaborate silhouette drawings out of paper. "At some point, I think we were having a conversation about Plato's allegory of the cave, and I started to think more about shadow, which fit in with the silhouettes I was drawing, so [it was] a progression from that," Dyrlaga tells Creators.
It stands to reason that Dyrlaga would draw such a conclusion from a discussion involving shadows, considering the role they play in the history of the silhouette. Evolving from figures outlined in black on ancient Greek pottery, to scenes and portraits cut out of black paper, silhouettes became especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with shadow puppets used for theatrical performances.
Dyrlaga completed her graduate studies years ago, but her compositions continue to become more and more intricate. Often inspired by nature and architecture, she uses patterns and repetition that push the physical limits of the paper she cuts. "I did struggle at first with the technical aspects of paper cutting and making my ideas fit with the medium, but it didn't take long to figure it out, and it immediately felt like a very natural way of working for me," explains Dyrlaga.
Dyrlaga's works garnered internet attention when she posted them on Reddit a couple of years ago and was immediately peppered with questions about how long it took her to make them. As it turns out, time does play an important role in Dyrlaga's work, but not because of how long it takes to make, but because the process has made her acutely aware of a lifestyle she chooses to maintain. "There is definitely a meditative aspect to paper cutting. You have to focus and get into a rhythm. Through my work, I have taught myself patience and quietness, and those are skills I take away and use in other aspects of my life, too," says Dyrlaga.
"I get asked a lot why I don't make my life easier: a machine would do it quicker, this is the hard way. Why make one when you can make one hundred? I don't think that is how art works, but some might disagree. I really believe that I couldn't achieve the same artwork with a machine, and I love working so manually," she explains. In fact, the effort that goes into the work is really the point for Dyrlaga. "I get as much out of the process of making it as I do from the finished piece, so the time spent creating the work isn't something I think about."