Matthew Shlian

b. 1980

Paper engineer Matthew Shlian works in the realm between art and science. His sculptural forms are inspired by organic material and iterative patterns, each piece mapped out digitally, and then folded and assembled by hand. His work as an artist led to collaborations with scientists at the University of Michigan, where his paper folding abilities helped researchers to visualize their work on the nanoscale, translating paper structures to micro folds. His complex paper folds have contributed to investigations such as visualizing cellular division and solar cell development.

During his first Tamarind residency in 2016, Shlian worked with Tamarind printers to create a series of prints which he later cut up, folded, and reconstructed into dimensional pieces. He based the color palette on a 17th century Dutch still life painting by Rachel Ruysch, developing five color families he titles Sherbert, Hell, Winter, Marble, and Murmur. The resulting works utilize the same geometric pattern, yet each piece incorporates the printed sheets in a unique combination. The series The Other Ishihara Test, as Shlian explains, "references the color blindness test by the same name. I am color blind and it is this deficiency in perception that allows a certain focus on pattern, form, and repetition."

Shlian is the first Tamarind artist awarded the Frederick Hammersley Artist Residency for 2017-2018. Below is a digital publication following Matthew Shlian during his Frederick Hammersley Residency. Publication includes an essay by Lawrence Weschler. 


Video by Noor-un-Nisa Touchon. Produced with support from the Federick Hammersley Foundation.