fine art of origami indian express poonam goel

Uma Nair
Aug 22, 2014 11:44PM
Origami is derived from two words, ori meaning ‘folding’ and kami meaning ‘paper’ and is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, which started in the 17th century AD and was popularised outside Japan in the mid-1900s. The technique was to transform a flat sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting. We have all dabbled in this delicate art form some time or the other in our childhood but in contemporary times, it has evolved into a modern art form. Origami is witnessing a renaissance the world over and in diverse fields.

One of the most well known international origami artists is US-based Robert J Lang, who has been an avid origami student for over 40 years and has to his credit over 500 designs that have been catalogued and diagrammed. He is noted for designs of great detail and realism and includes in his repertoire some of the most complex origami designs. His work combines aspects of the western school of mathematical origami design with the eastern emphasis upon line and form to yield models that are at once distinctive, elegant and challenging to fold. Lang said, “Origami, like music, permits both composition and performance as expressions of the art.”

In India, there are many origami artists who have been successfully practising the art. Origami artist Anil Awachat, 70, was introduced to the art form in 1980 when his pen friend from Japan sent him a bird made out of paper. Awachat was quoted by the Daily News and Analysis during one of his exhibitions, “Apart from satisfying one’s creative urge, it enhances concentration and creativity. Folding paper can help you acquire subtle skills like fine finger movements, patience and spatial visualisation.”

More recently in New Delhi, an origami inspired abstract art and installations was on show at the Visual Arts Gallery. Titled The Folded Garden, the exhibition showcased the work of Delhi-based landscape designer, architect and origami artist Ankon Mitra. There were four collaborative works with Digital Jalebi, Radha Dhaka, Hexagramm Design and Tultul Mitra too. Curated by Uma Nair, the show was inspired by the rich and vibrant landscape traditions of India, interpreted through the precise geometric techniques of origami. The works are abstract but evoke fruit, trees, flowers, garden ornaments and fountains to invoke the deeply spiritual and sacred roots of landscape traditions. The works have been executed in diverse mediums looking beyond paper to metals, plastics and fabric.

Ankon Mitra is director, landscape design at Hexagramm Design Pvt. Ltd., and divides his time between designing landscapes and teaching origami at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad and other architecture and design schools around the country. An alumnus of the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and a gold medallist from the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi, he exhorts his students to discover the immense potential and beauty of origami, a fresh flowering of an ancient technique.

(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for

Uma Nair