When we first started researching on the artist duo Harikrishna Panicker and Deepti Nair, we spent hours staring at their creations. It was hard not to. Their artwork is compelling in its exquisite detailing and had a magical quality to it, which was impossible to miss even in images. And the more images we saw, the deeper we got pulled into their vividly magical world. From moonlit cityscapes to mystical underwater realms, it was mind-boggling to watch how magnificent an artwork can be created simply with layers of paper and strips of LED lights. However, do not be fooled by the seemingly simple medium of their artwork, it is far from that. Every piece of artwork takes recorded 8 to 10 days to complete and is so intricate in its detailing that a world can be made to fit in the palm of your hand. ACTFAQs connect with the dynamic duo to find out more about their journey. Excerpts.
What inspired you to take paper as the medium of your artwork? How has the journey been like so far?
We started experimenting with paper in 2010, right after we moved to Denver Colorado. We wanted to do something hands on and paper seemed to be a versatile medium for us to experiment with. We wanted to move away from using paper in its conventional sense and explore the three dimensional aspect of paper and adding light gave that magical quality to our paper cut pieces. We also love the duality of our pieces in its lit and unlit stages.
Our journey has been fabulous. We have received a worldwide appreciation for our work. We are glad that we have created a style of our own and it’s great to work on it together.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
We would say that we are storytellers and we are using this medium to transport the viewer into our world. We have worked and developed this style which is very unique. We are still pushing ourselves within this art form to tell these stories in a better way. We are also working with the environment design for our shows, which are completely pitch dark except for our lit pieces, and that adds to the experience of being within the art as opposed to being a spectator.
Within the contemporary art scene our work has been well received, we have shown with various galleries in Denver / NY / Miami / SF / Oslo and have been showcased at International Art Fairs like Art Basel, Scope, Context and Select.
Your artwork has ethereal feel to it, how do you manage to infuse the magical quality to it and what are your inspirations?
We are inspired by our travels. We love being in the wilderness, the mountains and the canyons. Being city dwellers, we like to escape and imagine a world where we live and walk among these giants and coexist with nature. We are inspired by the concept of exploring the unknown and the mysterious, which gives us the liberty to create these magical scenes and creatures that in turn, absorbs the viewer’s right in to the world we are imagining.
We also look up to great artists like Hayao Miyazaki and Wes Anderson, inspired by how they manage to weave their stories within the unique art and visuals they create.
Take us through the process involved in making art.
Our styles are very different – Hari’s work is very graphic and simplified. Deepti’s work is more organic and detailed. We play on each other’s strengths and together we have a completely different style. We start with a story. Our art is a collaborative process, so it might be something we come across during our travel or something we imagine. We then sketch it out and hand cut these intricate layers. The next phase is the putting the layers together, depending how it interacts with light, making some last minute tweaks. This is the most crucial part of our work. The whole process takes about 8 to 10 days depending on the size and the intricacy of what we are creating.
In comparison to other art forms, paper artwork does not enjoy the same popularity in India, why do you think that is?
True. Art in its conventional sense has always been painting or sculpting. At least that’s what is taught in schools and colleges. The idea of using paper as a sculpting medium and forming 3D dioramas is something that is really new, but there is a fresh wave of artists trying out paper art. We hope to have more artists exploring this medium.
How do you propose to counteract the situation and improve the prominence of paper art in India?
We have been taking workshops in schools and introducing students to paper art. We recently conducted a paper art workshop in a rural school in Odisha and the experience was really rewarding, when you see these kids think beyond paper as a surface to draw and learn to express their ideas in a 3D space.
Any artists you wish to collaborate in near future, if so, who and why?
We love Hayao Miyazaki & Wes Anderson’s films and it would be dream come true if we could collaborate with any of them in the future.
Any plans to use your art as live stage set up?
We constantly get feedback from our collectors and viewers that the pieces transport them to our magical worlds and that’s what we strive to do. It would be amazing to do a large scale setup. We did a large scale window installation in New York a couple of years back for AIGA NY but that was still just 6×6 ft. We would love to scale it up a notch and take it to the live stage set up or a walk through installation of sorts. Hopefully soon!
Any piece of advice you would like to give aspiring artists?
Our advice to aspiring paper artists is patience and a lot of blades and band aids!
What can we expect from your future projects?
We do have exciting projects coming up in the future. We are represented by Black Book Gallery in Denver and we are scheduled to do a solo show with them in 2016. We are experimenting with our style, introducing color and weaving new stories in to paper. Another form of art we enjoy doing is painting murals. We have painted various murals in Denver, Colorado and the largest being a 120ft long mural for New Belgium Brewery in downtown Denver. In India, we recently collaborated and painted a large scale mural in Odisha at a rural school, and that was a fabulous experience. So one of our future projects is to continue to teach, take workshops at schools and hopefully paint more murals.