All is not what it seems at a major exhibition at Today Art Museum in Beijing, where porcelain vases are made of glutinous rice paper and a cotton jacket is woven together with pages pulled from a dictionary. The show, “A Tribute to Tradition – The Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art Works”, runs until August 3. It features more than 120 pieces created by 58 artists, and highlights the versatility of paper as an artistic medium. Wang Lei is the artist behind the 110cm x 150cm (43 inches x 59 inches) jacket made with paper threads cut from English-Chinese dictionaries. For his other work, Splendid Chinese Culture 2018 , he took out a yearly subscription to Chinese newspaper Beijing Evening News before shredding the copies into strings to weave a 400cm x 600cm hanging carpet. According to Wang, weaving is a traditional technique that goes back to ancient times in China, when people used to record events by tying knots on strings. He uses the same method to create works that are not only “records” of himself, but the world around him. Other artists have used toilet rolls . Shen Lieyi’ s The Sky Series , for instance, sculpts the humble material into animal shapes and landmarks such as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “A Tribute to Tradition” is organised by the China Paper Art Institute of Jilin Normal University in Jilin, northeast China, and financed by the China National Arts Fund. Its head, artist Li Hongbo, says the institute has collected more than 8,000 kinds of paper from around the world, and many are ideal for creating art. “Our institute compiles and does research on skills for putting paper into artistic uses like cutting, pasting and sculpting,” he says. Li’s Ocean of Flowers is a colourful array of rippling paper that occupies an area of 160 square metres and symbolises 10,000 bullets and 3,000 guns. Li says the work is a meditation on peace and war. “It took five people and a week to arrange the artwork display,” says Li, who has two other works in the exhibition, Juvenile and Roman Youth . Both are statues made of paper. The artist says he has spent eight years honing the skills needed to make these lifelike sculptures. “For every centimetre in thickness, it takes 100 pieces of paper. A statue takes thousands of pieces of paper to make,” he explains. The China Paper Art Institute was set up in 2018, and is the first specialised paper research centre in the country. The institute doesn’t just explore the contemporary artistic uses of paper – it also publishes and organises exchanges with overseas paper artists, and a 3,000 square metre paper art museum has recently opened at the university. “In the past, paper was only seen as a material [for making books or drawings], or as a toy or handicraft. Paper in itself being an art form is a contemporary concept that appeared only around two decades ago,” says Li. Li adds: “The exhibition is the first roving show [in China] to present contemporary paper artworks. Our institute wants to do collaborations with individuals and institutions from around the world who are [interested in] exploring paper as an art form.” “A Tribute to Tradition – The Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art Works” runs until August 3 at Beijing’s Today Art Museum.