Updated: Apr 7, 2021
Our April Artist of the month goes to "oritecture" artist Ankon Mitra whose large scale paper sculptures push the art of paper folding into astounding new dimensions.
Full name: Ankon Mitra
"Paper is simply the most affordable and astonishing invention of the human mind. Without paper, we would still be in the Stone Age. It is nature’s most precious gift to us - to think, to make, to shape and to create with."
Where do you make your paper Art?
When I am researching or deeply engrossed in a geometric pattern or understanding a new method or technique - I work in my library where I have a desk dedicated for creating paper prototypes. I tend to create large spatial installations, so when production happens for such projects, a large team is involved and typically we work in the assembly part of the architecture studio. When I scale up work from paper to other materials like metal, stone or concrete, the work happens in the workshop, which has all the material specific tools and machines.
How long have you been working with paper?
13 years now. I started in 2008.
How would you describe your approach to paper art?
Paper is a foundational material. Like stone sculptors first make models in plaster of paris, all my ideas start by folding and shaping paper. I experiment with forms, complex three dimensional ideas and the mathematics involved in them - through paper models. Paper is simply the most affordable and astonishing invention of the human mind. Without paper, we would still be in the Stone Age. It is nature’s most precious gift to us - to think, to make, to shape and to create with. Paper helps to refine the ideas. Sometimes the forms stay in paper, maybe transferred to stronger, more long lived, thicker paper, sometimes it transfers to sheet metal or wood veneer or polypropylene. Anything is possible because of paper.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am a biomimicry student. Inspiration is in the cosmos all around us - in geology, cosmology, chemistry and biology. There is no aspect of nature which cannot create awe and wonder. From river systems to coastlines of continents, and from the skeletal system to sea shells, everything contains within it a system of folds. I study folds. They study me. I am made of folds. We all are.
Describe your work to us in 3 words.
We are folds.
What are your favourite papers to work with?
I really love the texture and uneven thicknesses of handmade papers. They are so unique and full of character, not at all like predictable machined/mill-made papers. I also love shiny paper - gold foil card, dichroic paper, laminated glossy papers which reflect light in interesting ways.
What tool could you not live without?
My fingers. Chopsticks. A steel ruler. An ordinary cutter with snap blades. A cutting mat. Maybe the bone folder (for heavy papers). A large format printer that takes A1 prints is lovely too. But maybe I CAN live without it. One shouldn’t be too greedy!
What is the best thing about working with paper as a medium?
You know human beings can’t create 3D forms which are non-Euclidean in physical space. Perhaps paper is the only flat 2D material, which makes it almost possible to do so. The approximation is frightfully real. It is just sublimely ridiculous how paper (almost) beats the laws of physics.
Who are your favourite paper artists?
Too many. But I will name a few. Yoshinobu Miyamoto, Goran Konjevod, Tomoko Fuse, Erik Demaine, Jeannine Mosely, David Huffman, Ruth Asawa (who would begin her experiments with paper and finally finish the process in metal) the list is really endless.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently obsessed with Shibori, which is a tie-n-dye technique done using folding fabric in different ways, but I am trying it on different kinds of paper. It is a secret project - the studio staff don’t know about it! Of course now they will after reading this!! I am also trying to fold two new material - one is a paper fabric made by combining paper twine in the weft with thread in the warp. The other is stripped crisp packets which become like long tinsel really, woven again with nylon thread to create a very sturdy and beautiful material preventing empty crisp packets from going to landfills or getting incinerated. Weaving to create such hybrid, recycled materials may be the path of the future. And I am trying to experiment and fold these new materials. I am also trying to cast glass from a paper folded mould!! I kid you not! Of course it isn’t at all as simple as it sounds. I was half hoping I could pour molten glass directly onto the folded paper model!