João Charrua is a Portugal-based artist whose Instagram bio reads ‘I fold paper’. And it’s true, he does simply fold paper, but he folds it into these sinister yet beautiful faces that seem to hold the weight of secrets worth a hundred years. Charrua holds a deep fascination for masks, and he believes that a mask “intrinsically carries an energy with which we identify in some way”. He believes them to be portals to our imagination, carriers of mysterious and magical energy, and this is the energy he attempted to recreate in his intricately folded and precisely crafted paper portraits!
Designer: João Charrua
Charrua creates expressive and detailed human faces from single sheets of paper, crafting and adorning them with delicate noses, angular jawlines, cavernous eyes, and solid eyebrows. He models these darkly serene human faces through carefully planned and meticulous folds. Charrua deep-dived into the world of origami around thirteen years ago, when he was trying to find a common interest to share with his daughter. “Origami requires rational and sequential thought, where each fold goes to form part of the whole, and they all have to come together to produce the final result,” he said. His newfound love for origami encouraged him to research contemporary practitioners and was thoroughly impressed by the level of detail and patience one could grow to possess, if they truly invested in the art.
Charrua’s process is quite thorough and painstaking as well. He usually makes sketches or three-dimensional drafts, where he visualizes specific features and works on the initial prototype models before beginning to create the final model. He says, “I believe that by repeating the process many times, certain gestures, folds, or techniques become routine acts, so that a natural creative process develops, underlain by the subconscious.” The bulk of the work is done way before the first fragment of the final model comes into existence. Through intense trial and terror, he finally concludes on a face that he believes is worthy of turning into a precisely rendered portrait.
Charrua’s portraits aren’t really smiling ever, in fact, they always have a slight frown or a sense of sadness on their faces, which lends a stronger air of elegance and beauty to their overall persona or could be the secret to their visual appeal. You can check out more of Charrua’s work on his Instagram.