Art

Snip and shape

A piece of work by Kirigami artist J. Ramesh. Photo: Dominic Raj   | Photo Credit: Dominic_Raj

The tools of his trade are minimal – a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors. Snipping away with remarkable dexterity, J. Ramesh cuts a plethora of shapes from folded squares of paper, which when opened up, reveal forms and silhouettes of just about anything you choose to name.

“I term myself a ‘kagida sirpi’ (paper sculptor)”, says 40-year Ramesh, a resident of Sithalapakkam.

On how he got started, he says, “From childhood, I was fascinated by the shapes I could cut from the thin sheets of Tamil date calendars. Economic hardship forced me to discontinue studies after the 10 standard. I began working as a mason. Interior designers appreciated my cutwork motifs and used them on tiles, wallpaper and false ceilings. However, I had to give up the strenuous work due to back pain and took to kirigami full time. Gradually gaining recognition, I conducted workshops and courses at leading schools and colleges including the Government College of Arts, Madras.”

“In 2006, my craft demonstration at Tamukkam maidanam, Madurai, drew the attention of European delegates. Using laptops, they showed me paper art images and thanks to them, I came to know that it was called kirigami, a craft form prized in Japan,” he points out.

“The turning point came in 2013. Until then, kirigami was perceived as a ‘foreign’ craft. After much effort on my part, it was granted entry into the annual craft competition conducted by Poompuhar. Imagine my delight when my entry bagged the first prize!” he adds.

Displaying an image of his winning exhibit, a postcard-size cutwork of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, Ramesh points out the special features –from multiple views, it showcases letters within letters and is a continuously linked piece.

Recognising its uniqueness, the students of Anna University helped him get a copyright to this work.

With over 3000 works to his credit, the USP of Ramesh’s craft is the continuity between forms. He scissors without drawing a single line, gauging proportion instinctively. Cut from brightly coloured fluorescent paper, architectural facades and forms such as churches, mosques, temples and monuments are accurately reproduced in painstaking detail.

“It is not just a penchant for symmetry. Much contemplation goes into the themes – fantasy, reality, everyday incidents and social issues,” he says.

Ramesh’s dream is to secure official recognition for kirigami so that a State-sponsored academy for paper sculpture could be established to benefit those who wish to learn, with no bar on age.

“In Japan, there is an art department for teaching kirigami. If we had a similar institution here, anyone could easily learn this craft, in just a week. No special qualification is needed – only the desire to create”, says the artist. “Also, kirigami is extremely therapeutic. I have trained many IT professionals in corporate-sponsored workshops and always, the feedback from the participants is that they feel instantly relaxed. Like yoga, it is a stress-buster,” he adds.

“Kirigami could be put to use across a wide spectrum – to improve concentration and motor skills in both children and adults, to benefit design students with its endless creative possibilities in textiles and accessories”.

His other plea is for housing allotment for permanent residence. “I live in a rented space. The accommodation I can afford is too small to keep my collection, which I am forced to store in gunny bags and sacks. Stained by dampness, nibbled by rats, many of my works have been destroyed. This would not happen if I were given my own quarters’, he says.

(J. Ramesh can be contacted at 9841240152)

On Kirigami

The word is of Japanese origin. ‘Kiru’ means ‘to cut’ and ‘kami’ means ‘paper’. Paper sheets are folded and cut to form symmetrical patterns. Often used to make paper snowflakes, flowers, stars, birds, animals and buildings. The symmetry could be 4, 6, 8 or 12-fold.

To facilitate easy cutting, the paper used is very thin, with delicate lacelike designs being created by deft artists. Vinyl or plastic sheets are used to make stencils. Fashion designers have incorporated kirigami appliques in haute couture gowns. Famous kirigami artists include Kanako Yaguchi (Japan) and Rob Ryan (UK).

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 7:10:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/snip-and-shape/article7353915.ece

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