The medium that a storyteller manifests his or her stories with, plays as significant a role in captivating the audience as the story itself.
While for some, the story unfurls through written words and films, many chose to express themselves through the beats of music and trance of dance.
For Hari Panicker and Deepti Nair, it is paper, which the husband-wife artist duo brings to life through the unassuming medium of light.
Take a look at this.
A commissioned piece by Google which most of us would recall having stumbled upon recently, the dazzling silhouette diorama commemorates the 187th birth anniversary of legendary explorer Nain Singh Rawat, which the duo intricately put together layer-by-layer.
Based in Mumbai, the rendezvous with paper and light started as an experiment in 2010 during the time they were working in Denver, USA.
“Deepti’s work took her to Denver and I’d followed her shortly. Though both of us were employed in the art field, there wasn’t anything that we were doing at that point that could ideally be classified as art. And thus we started researching upon various forms and styles and eventually began experimenting with different techniques of printing,” says Hari to The Better India.
The childhood fascination with storytelling began seamlessly flowing into their ideas and soon paper cut art walked its way into their lives, which saw the duo experimenting with paper cut shadow boxes.
Titled ‘Orange Lotus’, their first shadow box work showcased a diorama that was brought to life through layers of hand painted watercolour papers assembled in a wooden box.
Starting with an exhibition at an art gallery in Denver, the duo started garnering rave reviews from not just the spectators but the art fraternity as well.
“By then we had started thinking in layers, just the way a story has several layers in its narrative. The idea of collaborating light with paper was more of a ‘light’ bulb moment,” laughs Hari.
As their tryst with light started taking a greater shape, their artworks began evolving with minimalism taking the centre stage and the tinges of colour in their initial works slowly transitioned to a monochromatic style.
As a result, Hari and Deepti ended up crafting a unique style of paper cut art using backlit light boxes that were illuminated with flexible LED strip lights.
At the zenith of their creativity, the duo decided to bid goodbye to Denver and head back to India in the fall of 2014. Shortly, they started travelling across Asia and Europe to amass inspirations and stories for their art and began showcasing their work through solo shows and workshops.
The highlight of their career as paper cut artists could be their exhibits making way into prestigious art fairs like Context Art Fair, Select Art Fair & Scope Art Fair in Miami and New York.
Besides, they have showcased their works at galleries like Black Book Gallery (Denver), Svper Ordinary (Denver), Spoke Art (San Francisco), Lequivive (Oakland, SF), along with solo shows in Norway and Taiwan.
In April 2016, they were invited by the Dubai Culture to be a part of the Dubai Art Season, where they left the audience spellbound with a 6×6 feet paper cut installation.
When asked about their source of inspiration, Deepti explains that much of their pieces take the cue from nature and how man has always been fascinated by it since time immemorial.
“Exploration is a diehard instinct of human beings which had propelled ancient people in discovering new frontiers and in today’s date, find themselves. Being city dwellers, travelling gives us a calming sense of being which we try to reflect through our works,” she muses.
Between the both, Hari claims to be more of a structure and minimalism driven artist, while Deepti takes the organic route and likes to involve colours as much as possible.
“Our works showcase two very different ideologies seamlessly blended into one,” says Hari.
Apart from paper cut works, both have conjured up many breath-taking murals as well, which includes a gigantic 125 feet work for New Belgium Brewing in the heart of Denver.
One of their other murals, which commissioned by the Denver Urban Arts Funds in 2014, ended up being voted as the Best New Mural by Westword.
In 2015, Hari and Deepti packed their bags to the tiny village of Kankia in Odisha where they painted a magnificent mural at the village school run by Gram Vikas, a non-profit organisation.
The mural, Imagine, was a part of an art workshop conducted in the art space, Kalpanadham, which focuses on promoting art and creative thinking amidst local children.
“It was another experience for us. Be it Denver or Taiwan or even here in Kankia, for us the ultimate gift is to see the smiles on the faces of people emerging while engrossed in our works,” Hari adds.
The duo has also put together brilliant covers for various books that would make the readers take a moment in appreciating the work that has gone into its making.
At present, the duo is working on various projects, which they preferred to keep in the dark. Though they have found international acclaim for their exclusive paper cut and backlit style, Hari and Deepti remain little known amidst the art circles in India.
With a penchant for creative storytelling as intense as that of Hari and Deepti, we hope that their paper cut artworks find widespread acclaim and appreciation across the country in coming times.