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Ankon Mitra is an architect and Origami artist based in Delhi, India. He will be presenting Origami Murals and Sculptures at the 17th Edition of By Hand From The Heart event at Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am an architect passionate about the act of folding. The entire universe is created from acts of folding – from sea shells to coastlines of countries to the way sound waves and light waves fold as they travel through space. I explore forms and geometries which come into being through acts of folding sheet materials. My journey into the world of folding started with the design of a roof for an airport hangar, wherein I realized the immense strength and beauty of folded roofs – they are lighter, consume less material and can cover larger column-free spaces. This was the start of an exploration of Origami, the ancient science and art of folding. I teach folding and its wide-ranging applications to students of design, art, architecture and engineering, and have done so at I.I.T Mumbai, N.I.D Ahmedabad, S.P.A Delhi and Bhopal, and numerous other colleges in India and abroad.
The works on display – this is a new line of Origami art where lighting, shadows and folded forms meet. They are inspired by the fusion of folded forms in nature, the rich heritage of Tamil Nadu and complex architectural geometries.
What was the first thing you remember making?
Making a folded paper boat at the age of six. Of course at that age I did not know this technique had immense possibilities in science, art, engineering and technology. For me it was just a fun activity.
Why is making important to you?
In making, the hands connect with and fire many nerve-centers in the brain. It is both an act of meditation and an act of stimulation. I firmly believe the best way to learn is by doing and in most acts of doing, the hands play a pivotal role. The book “The Case for Working with Your Hands” by Matthew Crawford is a seminal book which I think should be essential reading for everyone. The idea of working with one’s own hands is so ordinary yet so sublime that it has the power to transform society and the world.
What is currently inspiring you?
The Art, Design and Architecture of Tamil Nadu. Along with the By Hand From The Heart Show, I am also coming up with a large public installation for the Coimbatore Vizha Festival which is entering its 7th Edition this year. The Chennai floods have also left a deep impression on me and as an Artist I am trying to find means to express the enormity of the calamity, man’s disrespect of nature, nature’s reprisal and man’s indomitable spirit in the face of disaster.
What’s your most challenging work so far. The Coimbatore Vizha Installation titled “Tradition carries the Seed of Regeneration” is going to be the largest and most challenging public scale work so far.
Can you describe your work place / space?
I have two spaces of work. One of them is a meditative space, it is my private Studio, with a small balcony facing the East, perched on the 4th floor of an apartment building. There is an Urban forest visible from the balcony of this studio, and I can hear peacocks in the day and foxes at night. This is where I come up with new ideas, where my most intensive research takes place and where sudden insights flood me with light. The other work space is part of architectural studio, within the hustle bustle of a mainstream design practice, architects and designers humming and busy-busy-busy all around me. Here the works I imagine get printed, creased, crafted and folded, pleated, installed and sent for framing. This is a hive, a hive of activity.
What is a typical day at your studio like.
A typical day consists of replying to emails, reviewing designs with the architecture staff in the studio, critiquing a 3D of a building taking shape on a computer screen in the studio, visiting architecture project sites and reviewing construction work in progress, checking drawings, fighting with consultants on phone and so on. I find for myself an hour or two in this mayhem when I sit down to reflect and review artwork on my drawing board (or my cutting mat), sketch a new inspiration and meditate. This is the pitfall of having my art studio embedded as a small unit within my larger architecture practice, but it is also the joy of seeing spiritually endowed art flower and thrive within a commercial framework, of sublime being born from within the mundane.
You have traveled extensively for art shows, talks and workshops; which do enjoy the most? Any particular experience you would like to share.
I enjoy workshops the most because they are hands-on and scores of hands are shaping and folding paper, engaged as one unit in an act of creation. Nothing is more beautiful. My first workshop in Singapore was very fulfilling, because it made me realize that the urge to create and the aspiration for beauty is a universal urge and whether I teach architecture students in Karur, Tamil Nadu or school children in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, the desire to be part of a creative process, and to express oneself, is as strong everywhere and in every person.
What is the most rewarding part of all of this for you? What have you observed?
Human species will go at some point, just as dinosaurs became extinct. But Geometry will endure, geometry is the soul of the eternal and to be subsumed in work where geometry is at the heart of the creative process makes me feel one with the universe. It is a strong feeling of being rooted, but also of being set free. Because Geometry is not limiting. It is liberating – like the ceiling of the Mandapa at the Kaitabheshvara Temple, Kaitabur, Shivamogga, Karnataka.
What’s up next for you?
A series of folded Origami Lights inspired by the Temple Architecture of India.
How was business for you at the event.
2000 KM away from home, for the first time Oritecture was doing a show at the other end of the country. Chennai have a soul which understands and appreciate art. The event as buzzing with visitors who valued and appreciated the effort we’ve put in crafting each of the art work. It felt great to receive curious visitors and co-artist who wanted to learn more about origami and the associated concept behind each creation. There was a wave of positive energy at the exhibition which all the artist and visitors have shared equally and that’s what we came back with friends and their memories.
What was the outcome of your participation.
Awareness! awareness about Origami, in this part of the country, how few folds and creases in paper/fabric can give deep meaning/message about life and society. Also, we’re back to studio with loads of energy and ideas.we’re working on the suggestions and comments we’ve received as as a result of the interaction at the By Hand From The Heart event.
Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1064545906911602/