Remember pop-up books? How you’d turn the pages eagerly with your chubby young fingers, inevitably tearing some crucial part of the unfolding mechanism and ending up with a limp mess of sculpted card? Or how you could never get it to slot back together neatly and would end up with a book three times its original thickness? Well forget all that; forget everything you think you know about the art of pop-up. Colette Fu’s work is so elaborate, so intricate, and so chaotically beautiful, her mind must look something like the climactic scene from the movie Labyrinth. With a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and a number of high-profile clients under her belt, including Louis Vuitton and Vogue China, ‘pop-up artist’ isn’t nearly a dignified enough term for what she does – ‘paper engineer’ is closer, but still doesn’t conjure up the explosion of imagination and inventiveness on display here.
What begins innocently enough – a photograph of boats, or a meat-packing plant, for example – becomes a smorgasbord of detail, the eye not knowing where to settle first. Fu doesn’t just transform a 2-dimensional image into three dimensions; she literally unfolds the scene, exploring every facet of it, bringing out details and elements not present in the original image, giving us the visual equivalent of an entire novel where before we had only a single sentence. This aspect of her work, as well as its sheer ingenuity, is what elevates it above your typical pop-up pieces – the use of the medium to show us something new, to pack more in, rather than simply enhancing a flat image. Even looking at photographs of the work, one has the sense of uncovering layers, unwrapping a present or digging deeper below the surface – a sense of exploration and wonder.
If you can’t make it to any of the dates on her exhibition and workshop calendar (and even if you can, in the meantime), it’s well worth checking out the ‘Pop-up Animations’ page of her site for an insight into the engineering and craft that goes into Fu’s work, as well as some beautiful award-winning advertisements she’s worked on for Children’s Medical Center in Texas. Be sure to take a look at her collage work, too, to see how her unique perspective exhibits itself in two dimensions – somehow, even these works manage to look like they’re about to leap off the page.