Malaysian artist creates tiger-themed paper cut-outs for the Lunar New Year


Foong has been passionate about Chinese paper cutting since she was 13 years old. Photos: Foong Yeng Yeng

The Lunar New Year is a few days away and visual artist Foong Yeng Yeng, 26, is completing her last few Chinese red paper-cutting artwork to welcome the Year of the Tiger.

She’s created many intricate, auspicious designs, ranging from fish (a symbol of prosperity), lotus (purity) to cherry blossom (renewal). But her artistic depictions of the tiger are the ones that stand out.

The cuttings showcase the powerful zodiac animal in all its bravery, strength and resilience.

“In Chinese culture, the tiger symbolises power and courage. We hope the Lunar New Year will welcome goodness and positivism amid the pandemic.

Chinese paper-cutting requires skill and a steady hand to carve out delicate patterns using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.Chinese paper-cutting requires skill and a steady hand to carve out delicate patterns using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.

“Some of these red paper cut-outs will be pasted on my windows as they symbolise happiness and prosperity during Chinese New Year.

“I enjoy working on paper-cuttings because there’s always a sense of excitement in seeing how a plain piece of paper can be transformed into beautiful artwork,” said Foong.

Foong is among a handful of Malaysians who are skilled in the art of Chinese paper-cutting. She was just 13 years old when she first learned the skill from paper-cutting artists from China who were in Kuala Lumpur for a month-long art exhibition.

“It was during the year-end school holidays, and I worked as their part-time assistant. I fell in love with paper-cutting due to its intricate and delicate designs.

“The motifs vary according to different ethnic groups across China,” said the talented artist, who further honed her skills after attending a workshop in Shanghai in 2018.

Foong's cuttings showcase the powerful tiger zodiac in all its bravery, strength and resilience.Foong's cuttings showcase the powerful tiger zodiac in all its bravery, strength and resilience.

Foong explained that it requires skill, patience and a steady hand to carve out the delicate patterns using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.

“Even though it’s hard work, I enjoy paper-cutting because it gives me a sense of calm. The secret is to have full concentration as well as an interest in this ancient craft. It gives me joy to see the curves transitioning into gorgeous designs, including flower petals and zodiac animals,” said Foong, who shares her creations on her Instagram account.

Foong is also determined to prevent the art form from vanishing. Since the pandemic began, she’s organised several virtual paper-cutting workshops catering to Malaysians aged 20 to 60.

“The response is okay, but I wish it could be better. Perhaps Malaysians aren’t interested in learning this skill because it’s hard work.

“However, I hope more youth will be interested in learning paper-cutting skills because it allows you to explore your creativity. Plus, it is a great way to learn about a part of Chinese culture and tradition,” she concluded.

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