My First Ever Artist’s Statement

The Vase

Fairly recently, I submitted some of my artwork to a contest for a chance at global recognition on a very large scale, and guess what? I had to submit an Artist’s Statement. Having never had any formal art training (except up until middle school), I had no idea what it was. Turns out, it is a short essay that highlights your story and your passion as an artist. A few blogs back, I wrote a piece entitled ‘The Peace of Paper‘ and I instantly thought of incorporating some (OK, a lot) of those ideas into my statement. Here’s what I came up with. Hope my enthusiasm for art shines through in this from-the-heart statement. Enjoy!

Look around you: there’s despair everywhere. Entertainment just isn’t what it used to be back in the good old days. Watching television is like taking a depressant; a pill that drags you down into the abyss of melancholy, draining out all your optimism and leaving you with a sense of hopelessness. Same is the situation with other entertainment media; be it a viral Youtube video of two brothers being mercilessly beaten by a heartless mob or a newspaper article tallying the number of buses burned in the previous night’s riots. Sure, there are a few avenues promoting light entertainment, but invariably, you end up tuning into one of the news channels to verify whether there’s a strike tomorrow or not, or how many lives were extinguished in the city of lights (Karachi, Pakistan) today. We are so wrapped up in this entertainment revolution that we fail to recognize a multitude of activities that can help nurture our constructive side and even introduce a degree of calmness in our otherwise chaotic existence.

Paper is perhaps one of the most readily available materials on earth and believe it or not, can be used to make beautiful creations. The various sizes, colors, thicknesses, and textures of paper make it a unique medium to work with. As kids, most of us would have folded a boat using a sheet of square paper; that’s Origami (meaning ‘paper folding’). The main idea behind Origami is to take a flat sheet of paper and fold it into a finished sculpture using basic folding techniques. The use of any glue, threads or scissors to create/stabilize the sculpture is a taboo for Origami practitioners. A variation of Origami called Kirigami (meaning ‘paper cutting’) allows the use of scissors to create your sculptures. My most recent obsession these days, however, is Slice Forms; 3D models made using slices of card stock.

I started practicing Origami in1998, my inspirations being Tomoko Fuse and Robert Lang, but went on hiatus from 1999 to 2007.  It all changed in 2008 when I was inspired to fold a single paper crane after watching a TV show (Prison Break – no surprises there); and I haven’t looked back since. I started working on more complex and challenging designs and in most cases, finished off the models. I’ve made stars and center pieces, cubes and cranes, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons, arabesques and florals; I just can’t seem to get enough. Sparing free time gets increasingly difficult but I find an hour here, a minute there to work on my latest project. As a natural extension to my passion, I started working on Kirigami models too, copying the greats, never really creating something on my own.

I stumbled upon Scherenschnitte (the Gernan art of paper cutting) and Slice Forms in the mid of 2011, and like any hobbyist, I started off by imitating the greats, like Mashahiro Chatani, John Sharp, and Richard Sweeny, but somewhere on the road to self-contentment, I discovered my own distinct style. I started designing my own models with varying degrees of complexity. Once I start working on a model, I lose all track of time. An unnatural calm surrounds me; the only things I focus on are the slices and the cuts, taking each step carefully, making sure I don’t make any mistakes.

Art is something that comes naturally to me. I have never had any formal training in this area and am 100% self-taught. I’m also a self-taught graphics designer, a photographer, writer, playwright, poet and 3D modeler. I’m still but a novice and I still have miles to go, hoping that one day, my work will be available for all to see, to experience, to appreciate, and to love.

In this uber-destructive world we live in, we should promote constructive concepts. Paper art is just one road that can lead to inner peace and tranquility; there are other art forms that help take your mind off the current state of affairs. I think it is high-time we started talking about something other than all the negative bubbling around us. I don’t want my daughter to come up to me one day and say, “Papa! I want a gun that goes bang-bang-bang”; I’d rather she walks up to me and says, “Papa! I’m out of paper.”

The Peace of Paper

Floral Kirigami Ball

Look around you: there’s despair everywhere. Entertainment just isn’t what it used to be back in the good old days. Watching television is like taking a depressant; a pill that drags you down into the abyss of melancholy, draining out all your optimism and leaving you with a sense of hopelessness. Same is the situation with other entertainment media; be it a viral Youtube video of two brothers being mercilessly beaten by a heartless mob or a newspaper article tallying the number of buses burned in the previous night’s riots. Sure, there are a few avenues promoting light entertainment, but invariably, you end up tuning into one of the news channels to verify whether there’s a strike tomorrow or not, or how many lives were extinguished in the city of lights today. We are so wrapped up in this entertainment (seriously?!) revolution that we fail to recognize a multitude of activities that can help nurture our constructive side and even introduce a degree of calmness in our otherwise chaotic existence.

Paper is perhaps one of the most readily available materials on earth and believe it or not, can be used to make beautiful creations. The various sizes, colors, thicknesses, and textures of paper make it a unique medium to work with. As kids, most of us would have folded a boat using a sheet of square paper; that’s Origami! Origami (meaning ‘paper folding’) is an ancient Japanese art-form that can be traced back to 17th Century AD, but was popularized outside of Japan in the mid 1900s [1]. The main idea behind Origami is to take a flat sheet of paper and fold it into a finished sculpture using basic folding techniques. The use of any glue, threads or scissors to create/stabilize the sculpture is a taboo for Origami practitioners. A variation of Origami called Kirigami (meaning ‘paper cutting’) allows the use of scissors to create your sculptures [2].

Origami is universally associated with peace. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand Origami cranes shall be granted a wish by the crane. A little girl named Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) contracted leukemia after being exposed to the radiations from the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945 [3]. She was only 12 when her disease progressed to a terminal stage. It’s an age where you still haven’t let go of the possibility of a miracle, so on the insistence of a close friend, Sadako started folding paper cranes with whatever paper she could get her hands on. Unfortunately, Sadako could only make 644 before meeting her maker. Her friends and classmates finished folding the remaining cranes after her death. Now every year on August 6, while Hiroshima conducts a Peace Memorial Ceremony, people from around the world send paper cranes in batches of 1000 to commemorate the child’s tragic death and her words:

“I will write ‘Peace’ on your wings and you will fly all over the world”

I started practicing Origami in1998, but went on hiatus from 1999 to 2007.  It all changed in 2008 when I was inspired to fold a single paper crane after watching a TV show; and I haven’t looked back since. I started working on more complex and challenging designs and in most cases, finished off the models. Once I start working on a model, I lose all track of time. An unnatural calm surrounds me; the only thing I focus on are the folds, taking each step carefully, making sure I don’t make any mistakes. I’ve made stars and center pieces, cubes and cranes, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons, arabesques and florals; I just can’t seem to get enough. Sparing free time gets increasingly difficult but I find an hour here, a minute there to work on my latest project. The video below shows images of some of the models I’ve made:

Origami’s many positive attributes have been researched for quite some time now. A brief list follows [4]:

  1. Nurtures creative, inventive and constructive abilities
  2. Develops motor skills
  3. Helps your visual and spatial co-ordination
  4. Explains geometric and angular relationships elegantly
  5. Makes you more patient and attentive
  6. Instills a sense of pride and joy when you finish a model

In this uber-destructive world we live in, we should promote constructive concepts. Origami is just one road that can lead to inner peace and tranquility; there are other art forms that help take your mind off the current state of affairs. I think it is high-time we started talking about something other than all the bad things happening around us. I don’t want my daughter to come up to me one day and say, “Papa! I want a gun that goes bang-bang-bang”; I’d rather want her to walk up to me and say, “Papa! I’m out of paper.”

Note: ‘Peace’ in this article refers to peace within as well as peace in general, because we cannot attain global peace unless we have inner peace. 

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami
[2] 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirigami
[
3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadako_Sasaki
[
4] http://factoidz.com/why-you-should-adopt-origami-for-skill-development-among-children/

Origamized Crime

A Modular Kusudama Ball made with 30 units

I wonder why, but every time I pick a piece of paper, I hear someone shriek, begging me to go-no-further. “If you make one more fold, I’ll shoot you”, says my mum. Reflecting on this reaction people have, I think maybe it’s because once I get to folding, I lose all sense of time and space for hours, even days (depending on how complicated the model I’m working on is) at a stretch. A more profound understanding of this peculiar behavior hit me later, in a rare moment of clarity in my otherwise insane existence; people really do not understand how satisfying and soothing Origami can be.

These methodical series of folds require focus and attention, and have a strangely calming affect on your nerves. Life seems to slow down a bit as you tread down the valleys and mountains (refer to the folding techniques), taking each step carefully, holding on, knowing one false move will lead you astray. I have been practicing origami for more than 10 years now, but I still think of myself as an amateur.

These days, I get less and less time to retreat into Origami’s soothing embrace. The one consolation I have is that my wife appreciates creativity and is eager to learn this age-old art-form; one eager student is better than none. In this post, I present some of the models that I have created over the years. Lately, I haven’t created anything new but I intend to change that soon, thanks to my one-woman fan-club.

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