Artist Ankon Mitra shapes his imagination in paper
January 1, 2023
Tessellations, geometries in nature, and folding techniques fascinate him. For Delhi-based artist Ankon Mitra, an architect by education and an origami artist by passion, paper sculpting is a fulfilling creative conduit. His latest solo show A Pilgrim’s Progress, atGallery Art Positive in the capital city, is his exploration of the folded universe of origami in 15 materials, at a point when he has completed 15 years of origami practice.
“Paper is one of the most versatile materials. It is affordable and available easily, combining strength, flexibility, and high precision. Both fragile and very robust, it can be cut, wet- moulded, sculpted, scratched, crumpled, creased, rolled, torn, painted over, joined to itself and other sheets with ease as well as preserved so well that full scale structures and architecture can be created with (see the examples of Shigeru Ban’s projects created with cardboard paper rolls),” says Ankon. “Working with this material sparks the imagination and opens dimensions of thinking that I didn’t know were possible.” He confesses that though all his explorations start with paper, they do not necessarily end here. “Paper is the perfect material for exploring complex geometries and then final works can be created in metal, stone, concrete, glass, resin, leather, anything. Paper sparks the imagination and opens dimensions of thinking that I didn’t know were possible.” From Lokta paper from Nepal, to Cordenon cardstock from France, hand-made cotton rag paper from Tara Gram, Madhya Pradesh to Fabriano paper from Italy, from washi paper from Awagami, Japan to stone-paper from the Netherlands, he has experimented with all textures.
The lithe and limpid swirls and flowing lines are almost hypnotic – in Radha Krishna Raas Lila, and Forest Peacock. “When Radha and Krishna dance in the Vrindavan forest, amidst a multitude of gopikas, Krishna multiplies himself for every gopika. This creates a swirl of devotion, love and divine energy, as every gopika feels she has Krishna completely to herself. She is right, but Krishna also belongs to everyone. He is intimate to you and me, and to the universe. I have projected this feeling through my creation: we can see the individual dancing couples, and everything melds into a universal energy of dance and light,” explains Ankon.
The Forest Peacock is a collaboration with Tholu-Bommalata (shadow puppetry) artist Anjanappa from Nimmalakunta village, Dharmavaram, district Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. A dialogue between two peacocks on parchment leather that has been folded to give the expression of an ancient scroll or palimpsest. “The light coming through the work signifies a look at mythology, indigenous forest culture and a deep appreciation and respect for nature: all things threatened by man. By collaborating with artisans, a city born and bred artist seeks to re-establish a tenuous link through artisans who have an ongoing dialogue with Mother Earth. As the two peacocks engage in dialogue, upside down with respect to each other, the work reflects on the topsy turvy nature of relationship with the earth at present. We can exploit her resources, but we cannot understand her nor comprehend what she says.” The Golden Fruit is an ode to the mango splendor in Totapuri, Dussehri, Banganpalli, Safeda, and Alphonso. “Our eyes light up when we savor the fruit, making me light up the creation,” he adds.
The magic of inserting light into an origami creation celebrates the grains and textures layered within, variables thicknesses showing up as light and dark spots, and when combined with folds reveal a mosaic of brightness and shadows. A surreal play. “It is almost a feeling of not folding paper, but of folding the light itself,” muses Ankon. The materials run through aluminium, brass, resin, various paper types, wire mesh and more.
An Audacious Dream of Utopia brings in breathtakingly intricate lines. “This work was first conceptualized with the interior designer Joya Nandurdikar for a little girl’s room,” shares Ankon. “The bird’s forms were meant to inspire and fill her with positive energy. Our children are like caged birds presently as the education system stresses on rote learning. The superfluous lifestyle of flashy fashion, high-tech gadgets, unending parties and material wealth, creates an environment where we seed unhappiness and despair. In this work I imagine a world where children find meaning in the work that they do, in the life that they lead, flying towards a dream where they are one with the creatures of the earth, and their actions enrich the planet.”
A compulsive, non conformist wordsmith. A sybaritic connoisseur of all 'tis epicurean. An insatiable sybarite. An incurable book-chomper. For me, there is nothing more powerful than the excitement of shaping the written word. I simply live to write.