Paper-cut artist Yang Shih-yi is also a photographer and director lauded by the Golden Horse Film Festival for his short film “Father’s Finger (爸爸的手指頭).” After experiencing a period of depression in his life, Yang began to create paper-cut art that tell heart-warming stories.
Before becoming a paper-cut artist, Yang was a photographer and filmmaker whose works were met with critical acclaim. However, having a successful career did not make him a happy person. Yang often felt worthless and unlovable due to his unhappy childhood.
2007 was a turning point in Yang’s life after joining the Wanderer Project (流浪者計畫), a subsidy program offered by the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre to help young artists travel abroad. Yang chose to travel to the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi and Yunnan, as well as Tibet and Nepal.
During his travels in these relatively poor areas, Yang noticed that even with lower quality of living, people there lived more content lives. When he was in Tibet, he saw women subsidize their family incomes by selling paper-cut works, and it made them happy even if they earned only a meager amount from it.
In addition, Yang was stunned by the colorful and vivid paper-cut artworks by Ku Shu-lan (庫淑蘭), the late Shaanxi-born paper-cut artist who was recognized as the “Master of China Folk Art and Crafts” by UNESCO.
Yang found that the people’s art creations there usually expressed love and hope despite their living conditions. The experience changed Yang’s attitude toward life, making him reflect on his own past, and learning to love and appreciate what he has in life.
After returning to Taiwan, Yang gradually changed into a more positive individual. The transition is also reflected in his paper-cut creations like cards and installations, which have become his way to share happiness and offer blessings.
With the belief that paper-cut art can evoke positive feelings, Yang presents folk stories and auspicious holidays through his creations. “Phoenix’s Blessings (鳳凰的祝福)” and “Divine Blessings (天公的祝福),” for example, are two large-scale paper-cut installations created by him in 2015 to bring blessings to Taiwan’s southern city of Tainan.
As a freelance artist today, Yang also delivers speeches to inspire people with his own stories and his creations. He hopes to help people who feel lost in their lives to discovery their own value and passion just like he did.