China’s Jun Tao Liu Cultivates a Garden of Creativity Honoring Ku Shulan’s Floral Paper Cut Legacy

GraphisMarch 20, 2024

In the heart of China's Shaanxi Province, a remarkable fusion of traditional art and contemporary design has been realized through the talents of Jun Tao Liu of the HILLS agency. Entrusted with the task of showcasing the intricate paper-cutting art of Ku Shulan, Jun Tao's project, "The World Among Flowers - A Research Exhibition of Ku Shulan's Works Collected by the Shaanxi Province Art Museum," has garnered international acclaim and secured a prestigious Gold Award in the 2024 Design Competition. Under Jun Tao's creative guidance, the exhibition and accompanying book celebrate Ku Shulan's legendary folk art mastery—a UNESCO-recognized "Chinese Master of Arts and Crafts"—and propels her legacy into the modern age. Through a harmonious blend of print and book design, Jun Tao has crafted an experience that transcends the boundaries of traditional folk art, inviting a dialogue between the past and present.

By: Liu Jun Tao

Our team was privileged to be involved in the curatorial, exhibition, visual, and book design aspects of "The World Between Flowers - A Study Collection of Ku Shulan's Works in the Collection of Shaanxi Fine Arts Museum". This exhibit highlights the remarkable works of Chinese folk art master Ku Shulan and her intricate paper-cutting pieces. As the first Chinese artist to earn the prestigious "Chinese Master of Arts and Crafts" title from UNESCO, Ku Shulan's imaginative and colorful compositions have become an iconic symbol of Chinese folk art. Our project focused on three key components: showcasing the artwork, designing the visual elements, and creating a book to further promote the artist and her works.

Our aim with this exhibition is to introduce Ku Shulan, a legendary folk artist, and her artistic creations to a younger audience. We also invite them to take part in the creation of the exhibition as a whole. To achieve this, we have integrated modern exhibition concepts into the exhibition design, breaking away from the traditional mode of folk art exhibitions. This has resulted in a contemporary conceptualization of Ku Shulan's art exhibition, creating a space-time dialogue between traditional and contemporary art. We are thrilled to present our audience with an innovative, diversified, and rich folk art research exhibition.

The exhibition's ingenuity draws inspiration from the bold and contemporary works of Ku Shulan. By extracting and reorganizing the representative elements of her art and combining them with modern materials, we have transformed them into visually stunning exhibitions and installations. We aim to present traditional folk art in a manner that is more accessible and enjoyable to the public today.

As part of our exhibition, we are showcasing Ku Shulan's exceptional piece, "Empty Tree". This artwork ingeniously transforms two-dimensional graphics into a striking three-dimensional structure, employing contemporary materials to craft an immersive, interactive installation. A unique aspect of this work is that it requires the audience's participation to truly reach its full potential. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, visitors are invited to affix prepared paper cutouts to the installation, generating an ongoing collaboration between the artist and viewers. This creates a dynamic spatial and temporal experience that is unlike any other.

The Shaanxi Fine Arts Museum opened an exhibition on July 22, 2022, which captivated visitors from diverse backgrounds and generated such excitement that it was postponed twice, ultimately drawing nearly 40,000 guests. In recognition of its exceptional quality, the exhibit was honored with the Outstanding Project of the National Season for the Exhibition of Fine Art Collections in Art Museums Award in 2023, distinguishing it as one of only ten exhibitions nationwide to earn this distinction. The exhibition provided a thought-provoking exploration of research and curation in this field of art.

Visual Design

The creation of the visual design shares a close connection with the exhibition concept. It carefully extracts the key elements that define Ku Shulan's works and applies a modern, geometric design language to reinterpret and simplify them. The result is a visually striking image that retains the traditional undertones of the original works. As the exhibition's primary visual representation, it effectively conveys the innovative and fusion style of the event while also inviting viewers to appreciate the timeless charm of traditional art.

Book Design

Our design for "The World Between Flowers - Research Collection of Ku Shulan's Works in the Shaanxi Fine Arts Museum" seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. We incorporate contemporary design techniques with traditional folk five-color paper, environmentally friendly recycled paper, and other art paper types, utilizing various bookbinding styles and languages. Our goal is to showcase Ku Shulan's artistic journey and the artistic beauty of her paper-cutting works in a multi-dimensional way, fostering communication and dialogue between traditional folk art and contemporary design.

The book's design and printing process went smoothly, taking only two months to complete content planning, organization, editing, design, and proofreading. Finally, the 600-page book was successfully presented before the exhibition.

The book The World Between Flowers - Research Collection of Ku Shulan's Works in the Collection of Shaanxi Fine Arts Museum was honored to be selected in Graphic Design in Japan 2023 and Tokyo TDC VOL. 34, and won many important design awards such as the DFA Design for Asia Awards, the GDC Award 2023, and a Silver Prize in the Tenth National Book Design and Art Exhibition.

This exhibit showcases a comprehensive and contemporary representation of creative design. While exploring curation and design, we recognize the value of traditional folk art, as well as the challenges faced in its inheritance and development. To revitalize and modernize traditional culture, we must utilize modern design language and innovation. By doing so, we can seamlessly integrate historical and cultural heritage into our daily lives. This approach breathes new life into traditional culture and ensures its relevance in the present.

Liu Jun Tao, a seasoned designer and creative professional with over two decades of experience, is dedicated to bridging the gap between art, design, and everyday life through innovative thinking. His expertise spans diverse areas such as branding, exhibitions, and spatial design, resulting in multi-dimensional and boundary-pushing creations. Liu's design projects have earned him numerous accolades both locally and internationally, including the IF Design Award, ADC Annual Awards, TOKYO TDC Annual Awards, the Xi'an TDC Award, the GDC Award, the Award360°100, A' Design Awards, DFA A' Design Awards, DFA Design for Asia Awards, HKDA Global Design Awards, GOLDEN Pin Design Award, and many more.

Discover more award-winning Design 2024 entries here. And don’t forget to enter our Design 2025 competition!

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