I didn’t know Russell Sutherland at all nor had I ever communicated with him. But I know his work. One of my first exposures to a kind of origami art I didn’t even know existed was stumbling across Sutherland’s flickr feed and, from there, his website, Folded Expressions. I don’t remember how I ended up there, but I do remember that Sutherland’s site was my first pointer to Eric Joisel’s work, another fact for which I am grateful.
Sutherland’s origami busts, faces, and flowers—some constructed with paper and others with metal—immediately cracked my mind open. All at once I understood so many things about origami as an art, not just a paper craft. Origami could be rounded and shaped! Origami could be used to make faces! Origami didn’t need to be made of paper! Origami could be tiny! Origami could be crumpled!
His origami busts can be haunting, funny, regal.
His netsuke (tiny faces) are amazing as handiwork and artistically rich.
His metal origami faces are technically innovative but more than experiments:
Sutherland’s site is aptly named. His folds are, almost without fail, expressive. Seeing his work I appreciated, for the first time, origami as an art that couldn’t be distilled into diagrams in the same way paintings resist being duplicated with outlines and numbers or a good meal goes beyond any written recipe.
I am enthusiastic about origami, but unlikely ever to be even an average craftsman, and never a real artist with paper. In a strange way probably only sensical to those who suffer from a similar failing, I am also grateful that Sutherland’s work obliterated any vague notion that origami might be my art. Sutherland’s work was the first that let me relax and not worry about being “good” at origami. I knew I would simply never be that good; origami became, for me, a craft I could simply enjoy for what it was. Sutherland, like Joisel, was an artist whose work I admire all the more fully because I have no intention (or pretension) to equal…his work stands on its own as art that crosses a variety of boundaries.