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A look into the mind-bending sculptures of Felix Semper in Doha

Photos courtesy of Felix Semper.

Doha, Qatar: What’s real and what’s not? Felix Semper’s sculptures are the type of artwork that will keep you guessing. Not only for their impeccable likeness to the authentic subject but is also made out of a material that you least expect — paper.

From a distance, art enthusiasts in Doha looked at Semper’s collection of sculptures displayed at Souq Waqif. Children and adults have gathered to marvel at the realistic sculptures of sneakers, Coca-Cola cans, Hermès Birkin bags, and more.

It was when Semper pulled the bag by its handle — and it stretched into layers upon layers of paper — did the audience’s eyes sparkled with awe. Dressed in his signature all-black outfit and a smile, Semper, the mastermind behind the jaw-dropping craft, went on to stretch more of his sculptures before a stunned crowd.

“There’s so many forms that you can take out of one sculpture,” Semper told The Peninsula. “Each sculpture becomes entertainment and performance. It can take up so many forms.”

“What I really enjoy about an exhibition is to see the people’s faces when I open the sculptures and see the smiles and the surprise. It never gets old,” he added.

Using recycled paper and found objects, Semper can push the artistic potential of static materials to create a dynamic and kinetic piece of art. Depending on the scale, each piece of sculpture undergoes a process that could take up to four months. The papers are glued by hand, stacked, carved, sanded, and then carved once more before being painted.

Semper affirmed that there is no limit to the source of his inspiration. From celebrity icons, fashion, sports, and even food items which he has had, the artist says, “I get inspired by the things around me.”

‘I want to show people that this is paper’

In a brief conversation with The Peninsula, Semper shared that this technique roots back to his younger years working in a print shop. “When I was a young kid, I used to work in a print shop and I used to cut paper using a cutting machine. I remember how the paper would shift and create stacks, and thought that this is a design,” the artist recalled.

He pursued the idea through trial and error. After much effort, Semper created a sculpture using blocks of paper. Despite a successful outcome, his first viewers were not entirely convinced that the art piece was made from paper.

“It was solid, and they thought it was stone,” he said. “I wanted to show people that this is paper.”

Semper had to revamp his sculptures, and in the process, unlocked a technique that brought forth mind-bending artworks that opened possibilities of a paper creating fluid-like motions.

To date, his works have been recognized around the globe including well-known artists such as DJ Khaled, J Balvin, Balenciaga, and more.

However, Semper has no plans to stop here. Like his sculptures, the artist looks to further stretch this technique and produce more technology-driven art using paper and found objects.

Visitors can still get a chance to see his artwork for free at the Tadweer Art Exhibition at Souq Waqif until February 29, 2024. And when you do so, don’t forget to press record as you witness the magic unfold.

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