‘shadow portrait’ of german chancellor angela merkel by kumi yamashita image via spiegel

since early 2000 new york-based japanese artist kumi yamashita is able to manipulate paper and other flat surfaces to cast shadow profiles of various people, with her most recent iteration showing the silhouette of german chancellor angela merkel. yamashita claims she is able to represent the portrait of almost anyone, though beards are more difficult, by carefully forming and shaping the chosen material to eventually depict a face – usually taking around half an hour to complete.

yamashita says of her artwork and process:

‘every different face is made from the same perfect square color paper, so the origami paper is the essence, the origin of shape. that’s fascinating. I use very subtle force, very slowly. you have to be careful not to bend it too much. it’s very fragile work; if anyone touches it, that’s it.

I wouldn’t deny my work is japanese. the longer I am away, the more I notice a japanese tendency in my work – simplicity, the tendency to reduce things.

I am drawn to temporary things. the appreciation for my own country grows. I love natural light, the shadow of trees on the ground. I love looking at the orange glow from a farmhouse in the countryside. I love the light on the hills right before the sun sets at the end of summer. I don’t usually start with ideas. I love visually beautiful things, things that are nice to look at. and, afterwards, I think about the meaning.‘

portraits created from shadow by kumi yamashita yamashita claims she is able to represent the portrait of almost anyone ‘fragments’ 2009 h: 270, w: 400, d: 2cm cast resin, single light source, shadow permanent collection of new mexico history museum, santa fe

portraits created from shadow by kumi yamashita the pieces usually taking around half an hour to complete ‘fragments’ 2009 h: 270, w: 400, d: 2cm cast resin, single light source, shadow permanent collection of new mexico history museum, santa fe

portraits created from shadow by kumi yamashita some pieces are made from paper, aluminum or ceramic ‘fragments’ 2009 h: 270, w: 400, d: 2cm cast resin, single light source, shadow permanent collection of new mexico history museum, santa fe

portraits created from shadow by kumi yamashita ‘origami’, 2011 h: 366, w: 366, d: 1cm creased japanese paper, single light source, shadow commissioned by american express, new york city

portraits created from shadow by kumi yamashita ‘fragments’ 2009 h: 270, w: 400, d: 2cm cast resin, single light source, shadow permanent collection of new mexico history museum, santa fe