Fairy tales enter a magical new dimension

An enchanting exhibition of Sleeping Beauty paper sculptures

Su Blackwell’s Sleeping Beauty castle
Su Blackwell’s Sleeping Beauty castle

From Rob Ryan’s whimsical poetic tales hand-cut out of bright card to Jane Prophet’s sublime pop-up stories that emerge from antique bound tomes, or Chris Kenny’s use of strips of words and fragments of maps to create elaborate, multi-layered paper collages – the vogue for intricate paper-cut art is at its zenith. Indeed, from Friday November 2, the London King’s Road branch of US fashion and interiors emporium Anthropologie is hosting an exhibition by Su Blackwell, an artist who sculpts the pages of second-hand books into three-dimensional worlds alive with mystery and magic.

Sleeping Beauty banquet, by Su Blackwell
Sleeping Beauty banquet, by Su Blackwell

The nine paper sculptures (£900-£5,500) on show are the original artworks that were dramatically lit and photographed for Sleeping Beauty, one of the narratives gathered in a recently published book The Fairytale Princess: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest (Thames and Hudson, £14.95). Along with Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Snow White and others, it has been retold in a lyrically fresh way by author Wendy Jones. For each story, Blackwell cut her intricate sculptures from the pages of another edition of the same tale – literally drawing their otherworldliness out into a new dimension.

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The schism between the delicate artworks and the destructive creative process is a fascinating one, but is also, Blackwell says, a way to “reflect on the preciousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our lives, dreams and ambitions”.

Sleeping Beauty and the prince, by Su Blackwell
Sleeping Beauty and the prince, by Su Blackwell

In this exhibition, co-curated by Long & Ryle, the London gallery representing Blackwell, the works include elaborate tableaux depicting her bedroom, a banquet (second picture) and the spinning wheel. Scene-stealing, however, is the turreted castle (first picture) set within an enchanted forest, which springs forth from the open pages of a vintage edition of the fairytale with vitality. And then, of course, there is the happy ending, with the prince and princess embracing beneath a garlanded arch (third picture). Magical escapism indeed.

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