The paper-wrapped figure could be seen as a contemporary take on the classical draped nude, a study of the folds and creases of cloth against smooth skin. Whilst fabric flows softly over the forms of the figure, paper will maintain a structure of its own, which lends itself to the art of paper folding - origami.
In what is arguably Picasso’s most well-known painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, his cubist treatment of the drapery as a collection of flat planes gives it an origami appearance. The flesh of the demoiselles is treated more softly in comparison, but there is a unity in their angular forms. The sharp folds of the drapery fill the spaces between the figures and engulf them in places, differentiated only by colour and tone.
Naum Gabo is a cubist sculptor who created the figure itself from paper - a Picasso in three dimensions. Renouncing the traditional sculptural notions of volume and mass, he turns instead to space and depth using intersecting planes. The surface of the figure is fragmented by the play of light and shadow. Gabo cited the Norwegian landscape as a source of inspiration - think mountains and fjords in paper form.
Blowing the origami figure up to life-sized proportions is the Dada artist Hugo Ball, with his ‘Magic Bishop’ costume for a sound-poetry performance. A Dada performance was incomplete without an elaborate costume to transform the human figure into abstraction, described by Ball as being ‘festooned and draped with impossible objects’. This is a strong example of paper maintaining its own structure around the body. He was so tightly wrapped that he had to be carried onto the stage!