31 international artists who cut, sculpt and manipulate paper, transform this humble material into fantastical works of art for the stunning new exhibition. Wonder at giant sculptures inspired by far away galaxies that spiral from the wall, explore a walk-through forest of paper trees and marvel at miniature worlds that explode from vintage staple boxes or emerge from the page of a book. Flocks of birds and butterflies cut from maps appear alongside artworks that feature dark fairytale imagery. Guns and grenades fashioned from paper currency and sinister silhouettes comment on social, political and economic issues. At the Gallery of Costume fragile paper dresses and shoes, as well as sculptural dresses fashioned out of maps and money respond to the historical costume displays and grandeur of the Georgian setting.

Imaginary Worlds
From miniature environments to large-scale installations, this section showcases a diverse range of imaginary worlds. New commissions made especially for The First Cut by James Aldridge, Andrea Mastrovito, Mia Pearlman and Andrew Singleton respond to the architecture of the gallery space. Other artists have engaged with time, motion, engineering, consumerism, environmentalism, nature and artifice. Many artists draw with a knife to create powerful silhouettes, poetic and spiritual scenes, as well as nightmarish or dark fairytale worlds. Manabu Hangai has constructed a dramatic and enchanted walk through forest within the gallery. These fantasy worlds transport us on our own journeys of the imagination.

Off the Page
Books are a source of inspiration for artists who cut, deform, carve and shred publications. The source material ranges from discarded books, encyclopaedias, pulp fiction, classic literature, artist’s monographs, iconic books and pornographic magazines. Scenes which we imagine when reading fiction are given three dimensional form in sculpture and animation. In a new work made especially for The First Cut, Nicola Dale has created a tree of knowledge for our digital age. The publications are both destroyed by artists’ interventions and given new life.

Mapping New Territories
Artists that re-use maps, atlases and currency are the focus here. Maps are evocative of journeys, to real locations, to times gone by and to imagined places. They also chart how landscapes and political boundaries change over time. Mapping and currency have a strong relationship with power, global politics, dominant ideologies and control. Using vintage and Ordnance Survey maps, atlases, bank notes and graphic representations of the natural and built environment, artists are engaging with cartography to create new landscapes of the imagination.

Exhibiting artists: James Aldridge, Noriko Ambe, Andersen M Studio, Su Blackwell, Sarah Bridgland, Claire Brewster, Peter Callesen, Laura Cooperman, Béatrice Coron, Susan Cutts, Nicola Dale, Andrea Dezsö, Tom Gallant, Manabu Hangai, Chris Jones, Chris Kenny, Andreas Kocks, Elisabeth Lecourt, Emma Van Leest, Long-Bin Chen, Violise Lunn, Andrea Mastrovito, Mia Pearlman, Abigail Reynolds, Georgia Russell, Rob Ryan, Andrew Singleton, Justine Smith, Susan Stockwell, Yuken Teruya and Kara Walker.

A full colour 112 page publication accompanies the exhibition, priced £12.99. It features an introductory essay by the curators of the exhibition and texts about each artist. Each artist’s work is illustrated with colour images. Published by Manchester Art Gallery.