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The Making of "Paper Duets" - a Collaborative Paper Art Project and Exhibition

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

L-R: Ankon Mitra and Pippa Dyrlaga, The Communion, 2022 / Gallery View (Gallery Art Motif) / Antara Malhotra and Piyusha Patwardhan, Mantras of Manifestation, 2022

This ambitious project was sparked by the creative mind of paper artist Ankon Mitra. It all began in early 2021 when Ankon contacted members of the Paper Artist Collective to see if there would be interest in taking part in a truly collaborative project. The idea was to bring together pairs of artists to create single pieces of paper art inspired by music or language, with the possibility of an exhibition to showcase the final works. In the past, collaborations within the PAC have involved working with a theme but with each artist producing a piece individually. This was a whole new challenge. As Ankon explained: "The idea is for each artist to push their specialised technique to ‘clash and synergise’ with their partner from another country or place, shaping and forming ‘harmony and symphony - from diversity and difference’."

Twenty four artists joined the project with collaborations linking artists from across the globe and as far afield as India, France, the USA and New Zealand. The paper techniques included paper cut illustration, sculpture, origami, folding, and weaving.

I asked seven of the artists some questions about their experience and their replies gave a real insight into the process of working so closely with another artist. For most of them this was the first time they had worked jointly on a single piece and there were many challenges in bringing two artistic styles together. The artists answering the questions are Mark Curtis-Hughes (MCH), Meghana Raghuraj (MR), Merav Peleg (MP), Janaki Lele (JL), Vijay YVCS (VY), Marina Talamaska (MT), Sara Rayo (SR) and Abhishek Dutta (AD).

Mayuresh Shirolkar and Janaki Lele, I am the River, I am the City, 2022

What did you enjoy most about the collaboration?

VY: "I enjoyed the process of jamming on ideas as it was a duet work and each of us having a distinct style of our own."

SR: “We were very open with how each would interpret and create, I think that was a fundamental part of the creative process.”

JL: "I enjoyed having another creative mind to pick!"

SR: “It was fun to find the similarities and differences between inspiration, style, work method.”

MT: “I found it quite satisfying to feel the pulse of my collaborative partner.”

MCH: “It was fantastic learning about Joseph's process and about the concepts and themes that inform what he does.”

MP: “I enjoy the most to get to know another artist in person. How he works with paper, which techniques he used in his art, his inspirations and his openness to collaborate.”

The logistics of the project were also not straightforward. How to easily communicate, how to hone ideas, overcoming problems at a distance - all these issues were new to artists accustomed to working alone.

What did you find challenging?

Image: Joseph Wu and Mark Curtis Hughes Hoi Polloi, 2022

MCH: “I have so much respect for Joseph’s process, I can’t get my head around nets and 3d modelling. I found it quite challenging working out how to fit my illustrations into the letter designs.”

JL: “I found it challenging to work with an artist who has a totally different technique to mine and yet come up with one collaborative piece that made sense to the viewer as well as showcased both our techniques.”

MR: "This project was a huge learning

experience for me and involved a lot of firsts in terms of materials and techniques. The project evolved both conceptually and visually over the months as we worked from ideation to final execution….. The experience of working with an artist with a different skill set was new to me.

MT: “As Naomi and I have quite different approaches in paper art we tried to find the match in our life in our musical choice to get one way of inspiration. That took me a while but it was an exciting trip.”

Were there any particular challenges about working with an artist in another part of the world?

MT: "I was concerned about shipping from the very beginning in terms of time and safety but it’s a common deal in my practice and everything went fine at last."

Image: Marina Talamaska and Naomi Kendall, Music for Peace, 2022

SR: "The time and shipping between our countries [was challenging], as well as shipping to the final destination with the finished piece staying intact."

MCH: "It’s fantastic that we’re able to communicate instantly with someone on the other side of the world. But I would have loved to be in a room with Joseph working on the project together."

AD: "In our case it was the same city collaboration thus the interactions were much more direct and at the end irrespective of who did what in terms of complex ideation, philosophical interpretation and artistic execution every part of it became both of ours."

Overall the artists really enjoyed being a part of this amazing project and the insights it gave them into another way of working and another artist’s practice.

This also brought about a lot of learning. Many of the artists commented that they saw new ways of working or found new ideas and techniques they would like to bring to their own work.

What did you learn from this collaboration that would be useful if you took part in another project?

MP: “The sky is the limit and with today's technology every thing is possible even in long distance and every collaboration can bring us to make new things.”

MR: “It taught us to be patient with the process and at times we were also surprised with the endless possibilities and turns it took."

VY: “Communication with the artist and curator and expectations setting is the biggest lesson.”

Image: Meghana Raghuraj and Namitha Hebbal, The Peregrination, 2022

MT: "I was inspired by Naomi’s geometric approach in paper art so it made me think about some new abstract paper art I like to try".

JL: "Keeping an open mind has helped me in seeing the other artist's point of view, push my boundaries and come up with some of the best work that I have made so far!"

MCH: “For my personal practice, it’s been good to do something completely different with my illustrations. It’s made me think about how I present and approach my work.”

SR: “I definitely learned about myself as well as how another artist works. I have been inspired by her work (Merav Peleg) as well as the other artists who collaborated. It is a beautiful learning experience and I am honoured to have been able to participate.”

The finished artworks were exhibited at Gallery Art Motif part of Delhi arts week. The installation of the exhibition took great skill and Ankon communicated with the artist teams to ensure their pieces were presented as intended.

The exhibition featured as one of the the top 5 highlights from Delhi Art Week in the Architectural Digest. It moves on next to Sweden where it will be exhibited at the Tumba Paper Mill Museum from January to March 2023.

Row 1 L-R: Sara Rayo and Merav Peleg, Leonura Terminalis (The Deep Sea Medusa) 2022 / Abhishek Dutta and Naman Shroff Tavashubhnaamejaage, 2022 / Meghana Raghuraj and Namitha Hebbal, The Peregrination, 2022

Row 2 L-R: Anais Herd-Smith and Michael Velliquette, La Boite de Paon d'Or, 2022 / JV Calanoc and Fiona Benson, The Song of the Sea, 2022 / Antara Malhotra and Piyusha Patwardhan, Mantras of Manifestation, 2022 and Liz Sofield and Margaret Griffith, Euphony, 2022

Row 3 L-R: Gallery View showing pieces by VJ Ratnam and Inku Kumar / Ankon Mitra and Pippa Dyrlaga, The Communion, 2022 / Gallery View

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