Artist Sachin George snips, folds, tears and crumples paper to create riveting and thought-provoking art. If only it was that simple to follow in his footsteps.
Sachin George Sebastian, a communications graduate from NID, Ahmedabad is largely a self-taught artist. In the last couple of years, this modest, young Keralite has sprung from virtual anonymity to bask in media limelight on the merit of his impressive paper art.The formal term for what he does, he softly informs, is ‘paper engineering’.
Sachin chanced upon ‘paper engineering’ quite accidentally one day while browsing through children’s pop-up books at a used-book store in Bangalore. As his synapses lit up with wondrous delight at the magic of pop-ups, he says it was “simplicity in paper as a medium and geometry as the tool” that inspired him to begin his own experiments with paper.
So compelling were the pop-up books that Sachin freed himself from the yoke of a full-time job to devote serious hours towards acquiring the skill of ‘paper engineering’. He surfaced two years later; his technique refined and with several projects under his belt including three exquisite pop-up story books.
Although the pop-up story books still languish on his shelf for want of an experienced publisher, Sachin admits the experience emboldened his ambition to take up paper engineering as a career and art form.“The desire to explore the medium, its properties and applications beyond the two spreads of a book started coming to my mind,” he says as he began envisioning and forming a narrative in multiple layers of paper.
Through the years, Sachin’s narratives have often revolved around the theme of overcrowded, chaotic metros and their disastrous impact on the natural landscape. Despite the bleak scenario, Sachin captures the frenzied metros imaginatively and with a delicacy that suggests beauty exists even in chaos. The intricate cutouts, forms, precise folds and clever pop-up techniques turn each work into a miniature architectural marvel.
The easy beauty of the art makes it approachable to the common man, arousing emotions of awe and appreciation for the artist’s skill, imagination and ability to work magic out of a material as commonplace as paper.
As you gaze on however, the pleasing symmetry and fluid imagery soon give way to a darker expression of a city overflowing at the seams. And an uneasy truth emerges – that beneath the superficial dazzle of urban life lurks a tale of squalor and strife.
Enmeshed in the exuberant whorls of his flowers, for instance, are human figures, transmission towers, skyscrapers and even birds on electricity poles – all fighting for space in a limited area.
During an artist residency with Khoj, an international artist’s association, Sachin created the series ‘How long? How far?’ – wherein he first projected his concerns about urban migration onto paper. In this series he depicted his own experience of moving from the sylvan surroundings of Kerala to the monstrous skyscrapers of a metro.
Commenting on the series Sachin says, “With my work, I attempt to discuss the regression that happens in the name of a progressive society. My works are a result of the collision between things I love like nature and organic beauty and the things I resent like industrialisation; this collision gives rise to certain common patterns, a cross-reference that acts as my inspiration.”
Although most of his works are cut in archival paper to add to their longevity, several of his artworks like ‘News Updates’ were created using newspapers since they were embedded with “stories about people from all over the world without discrimination of class, culture and other man-made boundaries.”
In the ‘News Updates’ series, he stacked newspapers to create multi-storeyed apartments and used human figure cut-outs to creatively represent the stories of different lives.
Just back from a productive artist residency at Budapest organised by Kempinski’s Young Artist Programme, Sachin shares that he is now looking forward to new challenges at the Kochi Biennale scheduled later this year. Without doubt, the artist is sure to cut a striking figure there.
Interview By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Courtesy Sachin George Sebastian, Exhibit 320 and Sajitha John M.