Paper castles

ARTFUL: K. Arunabalan. Photo: M. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: M_Moorthy

Strewn across his narrow living room are bits of cut paper, folded paperboards and a sheaf of paper shoved into a plastic bag that seems ready to burst at the seams- the signs of an artist’s constant need to engage with his art.

Until about a year and a half ago, Arunabalan was not even aware that a name existed for his ability to make paper models since school days. Growing up to become an art teacher at the government school in Arsankudi, Tiruchi, he largely restricted himself to painting, drawing and shading his observations. It was the September of 2010 that brought with it a three day workshop, where Arunabalan learnt the name of his childhood fascination.

About 160 art teachers from the region took part in the workshop, organised by the Government College of Fine Arts in Kumbakonam.

“The final session of that workshop, handled by Prof. Arularasan, was on the Japanese art of paper folding, Origami. For someone like me, who has been toying with paper folding since childhood, it was a revelation to know that this hobby not only had a name, but also a set of conceived techniques that made it immensely professional,” says Arunabalan.

He has since then taken up Origami more seriously, applying the basic techniques he learnt at the workshop like the step method, 90 degree and 180 degree formulaic folding and the use of vanishing points. “Every time I drew something on paper, I wondered if a picture could be depicted three dimensionally, without the use of colour and shading,” says the artist, who has had no formal training besides the four months long Teacher Training Course in which he completed free hand drawing, outline and model drawing.

“Origami delivered the answers to my quest,” he declares, mildly triumphant. In the span of a few months, Arunabalan began wondering if he could take his paper folding skills to the next level, while his works began drawing attention in the circles of education. With people approaching him to conduct workshops for students on the basics of origami, Arunabalan began conducting voluntary workshops at educational institutions in the city. At one such workshop, a he was put on to an architecture professor from the CARE School of Architecture who gave him the opportunity to conduct a workshop for first year students in November 2010.

“My display for that workshop included some of my prototype models of building façades,” he says, while recalling the positive reaction he received from his audience. By encouraging him to delve exclusively into architectural models, they ushered in a serious bout of experimenting with origamic architecture in his life. Today, his workshops for students of architecture revolve around the fusion of origami designs, with architectural concepts to better understand space utilisation and modernistic constructions.

When asked where he learnt the techniques of origamic architecture, he reveals that neither the internet nor books on origami were his teachers. Displaying a few models of buildings, places of worship, and Chinese palaces that he has singled out from a pool of over 200 of his origami works, he says he is an entirely self-taught artist. “I rely heavily on my capacity to observe minute detailing from images on television, magazines and encyclopedias,” says Arunabalan, whose modernistic works are inspired by pictures of parametric constructions from around the world. Shows like Megastructures on National Geographic and Discovery are his favourites.

His models, born out of single sheets of paper folded and cut to precision, are collapsible within the enclosing flaps of a card. “I wanted to make three dimensional models that popped out of a card and showed the viewer a world- just like a book,” he says, adding that he refrained from adding colour to his models. Stark, snow white boards when cut, display some of the most interesting patterns of light and shadow, an effect from which colouring would only take away, according to him.

Although aware of his work’s saleability (there are very few origami artists who practice origamic architecture in the world) he says he would never sell them. While his vocation and philosophy in life are dominated by his art, he thinks the effort he puts into it would lose value at the hands of someone who buys it off a shelf.

“Teaching, on the other hand, would inspire newer manifestations and can simplify concepts in mathematics and physics,” he says.

His biggest construction on paper so far is a 12 footer that he created for an art exhibition held recently in the city. With many more of these mammoth models slated for creation in the future, Arunabalan hopes to hold his own exhibition in bigger cities soon.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 7:22:18 PM |

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