Chinese artist hopes paper weapons will stir thoughts of peace

BEIJING, June 19 (Reuters) - Chinese artist Li Hongbo hopes his paper sculptures of weapons - from AK-47 assault rifles to bullets and pistols - will inspire people to think about peace.

"I produced this artwork (because) after all, there is still military competition, war and fear in this world," Li said ahead of the opening of his latest exhibit.

"I wonder if (my work) could make people ... pursue a kind of true peace, a truly beautiful world for mankind without any disputes," he said.

"Ocean of Flowers," which opened at the Eight One Art Museum in Beijing on Sunday, comprises nearly 2,000 brightly colored paper sculptures that can be folded up into weapons.

"A weapon that is used to kill people becomes a toy, a flower. It is an extreme contrast," said 56-year-old Wang Duanting.

Li, who grew up in a farming family, said he always loved the flexibility of paper, which was invented in ancient China.

Similar to the way traditional Chinese honeycomb paper lanterns are made, Li pastes narrow strips of paper together, which he then cuts and chisels to achieve a shape.

The paper objects can expand and contract like an accordion.

"It's very creative and these bullets are a lot of fun. It looks like there's elasticity in it," said seven-year-old Hao Jiabei.

The "Ocean of Flowers" exhibit was first shown in Sydney in 2012. The Beijing edition, which runs to July 20, is the largest showcase of Li's work in his native country.

(Reporting by Irene Wang; Writing by Karishma Singh)