By Michael Simon on July 28, 2010

Nick Georgiou's paper creatures take recycling and public art to a whole new level of creativity!

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

At first glance, this sculpture might pass for a dog, but look again and you’ll notice that despite having a curiously affecting expression, its eyes aren’t moving and its fur is made out of recycled newspaper.

The Gloamer. Photograph: Nick Georgiou

This is "The Gloamer," one of urban sculptor Nick Georgiou’s newspaper sculptures, which he poses on the street before photographing people’s reactions to them.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Speaking to Helen Soteriou, he explained: “I get a lot of double takes, some people stopping me even before I position the piece. Most people have mixed expressions, curiosity morphing into familiarity. At first, they aren’t sure what to make of it. Moving in for a closer look, most smile and say something like, ‘Is this made from newspaper?’ or ‘This is a book!’”

Sculpture alongside a Banksy. Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Georgiou likes the spontaneity of the street, abandoning the sacrosanct boundaries of the gallery — you can’t predict how the environment will change, and you can’t predict how the public will interact with the sculpture, adding a whole new active personality to the artwork.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Georgiou works in all forms of paper, whether from books or newspapers, with the salmon pink sheets of the Financial Times a particular favorite. Georgiou, 30, really is a man who is excited about paper.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

For the most part, the artist, who was born in Queens, NY, but lives in Tucson, AZ — is able to find abandoned newspapers on the street, picking up boxes of papers that have been left out for the garbage collectors. While newspapers might take up a lot of space, the news they carry doesn’t stay fresh for too long.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

All this unwanted paper is symptomatic of a larger issue — the decline of the press — which is one of Georgiou’s key themes. Alongside the corresponding renaissance in digital publishing, this thread has combined with the uncertain state of politics, the economy and the environment to inspire the sculptor’s work. Breathing new life into print, by transforming its narrative from one medium to another, was one of Georgiou's basic reasons for working in paper.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

The artist explained to Soteriou, “Books and newspapers are becoming artifacts of the 21st century. My work is not only about the decline of the printed word in today’s society but its rebirth as art.” His vision is to turn something old into something new.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

In the images above, one of Georgiou’s pieces stands alongside a Tucson Citizen newspaper stand, which commemorates the final issue of Tucson’s oldest paper. In fact, the sculpture itself is one of several that were made out of copies of the final issue, constructed within hours of the paper hitting the newsstands, so that the two could be photographed together.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Building each of the sculptures is a painstaking process. It starts with the paper being torn into strips, or rolled into tubes, before then being hand stitched into its new form.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

While the basic shape can be worked up relatively quickly, the artist says the most important thing about them is that their expressions and postures appear animated, which can take anywhere from several hours to months of work to achieve.

Photograph: Nick Georgiou

'They wanted a picture." Photograph: Nick Georgiou

Georgiou now has his hands full with a string of projects: He has a new gallery space in downtown Tucson, allowing him to interact with the public while he is actually creating his pieces; he is filming a documentary about the decline of the printed word; and he is creating a series of sculptures for a solo exhibition to be put on in Cyprus and Greece.

You can see more of Nick Georgiou's work at his blog:

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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