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Life of Gautama Buddha
in Devasthanakala
Paper cutting art
Shiva in
Devasthanakala Paper cutting art
Gitagovinda in Devasthanakala
Paper cutting art
Mahabharat in Devasthanakala Paper cutting art Durga in Devasthanakala Paper cutting art Krishna in
Devasthanakala Paper cutting art
Ragamala in Devasthanakala
Paper cutting art

Paper cutting demonstrations by Prabal Pramanik

Puppetry by Prabal Pramanik

Portfolio on Devasthanakala Paper cutting art

Imagery of the Soul on paper
by
Prabal Pramanik

My relation with paper and scissors started early in life. It was at old Calcutta, with grainy and patchy walls with mottled play of light and shade, in a quaint building of colonial architecture this paper bridge between reality and imagination started.
Like bits of sunlight that seeped in through the gaps in the window shutters, pieces of paper lay scattered on bed where I played, and with a small pair of scissors, cut out shape after shape in pure joy.
At that time I was a child of five and was not aware of the paper cutting tradition I was born in and the link that joined me to the master artists of yore.
Later I learnt of my grandfather, late Sashibhushan Pramanik, who dedicated his life to this traditional form of art and also about the masters who would create wonderful paper cutout images to decorate Vaishnav temples at the times of festivals such on Rasa, Janmashtami and Jhulan in Bengal, Mathura Vrindavan and Orissa.
Way back from the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu when faith and dedication had other meanings in life, paper cutting masters plied scissors and sharp cutting tools to create silhouette and filigree designs that were created without any drawing or tracing.
The rhythm of the "Mridangam" in the "Natmandir", the "Kirtan" songs of devotion overflowing the heart with a nectar that takes the soul from the bondage of apparent to infinite, in the way of light that formed the path and the goal both in the existence of those who chose to travel along it. "Devasthanakala Sanjhi" paper cutting art was a part of that way.
The "Leela" of Krishna, the lover supreme, with Radha the eternal devotee was portrayed in paper, creating a material support for the subtle "Rasa" or emotional entity. The spiritual intent and the application of the art allowed a set of values that had nothing to do with the modern day concept of success in the lives of those who practised it.
In the rat race of today's modern society the time honoured values of devotion, patience and spiritual joy are little understood or thought to be necessary, and Devasthanakala, dwindled down to a shallow craft form of mimicry, or passed into oblivion with its
technological excellence from the places where it was previously practised.
In today's world where spiritual philosophy has given way to the concept of commercial gain, I like a lamp that flares up into a flame before it finally dies down, strive as a "Nimitta" or a medium in the hand of Govinda making complete and complicated compositions without any drawing or tracing, preserving this rare form of art, atleast for the time being.
The imagery of my soul in paper, utilizing the negative and positive aspects of space both, have found visual expressions through the epics of Mahabharata, Ramayana, the life story of Gautama Buddha and Jayadeva's Lyric Geeta Govinda.
I make paper cuttings on other themes such as birds, animals, history of art and some contemporary scenes. Innovations have allowed a new idiom to this form of art without distorting the basic technical aspect or the philosophy.
In my own way I sculpt paper in to three dimensional forms by cutting and folding to give it volume and structural stability.
Moving visual forms have always interested me, and to expand the perimeter of Indian paper cutting art and for the sheer joy of experimentation, I started making paper cutting animation.
I first made animation films (16mm) in Calcutta in 1998.
The recent paper cutting animation movies (digital) were made far away from the cubist's delight of old Calcutta, in the heart of the Himalayan foot hills with the mighty backdrop of imposing ranges, in a little mountain village, in our studio with just a few multimedia equipments and lot of imagination, with my friend Arup Chandra. I make the visuals and the animation themes and Arup does the photography, editing and music synchronization work.
The movements are not made with any computer software but created manually.
The individual creative involvement is a very important part of paper cutting animation movies. The computer is used only for editing, lettering and sound synchronization. The animation movies were very well appreciated when several small movies were shown at British library, Chandigarh (14th March 2004) and India International Centre, Delhi (31st July 2004).
So far we have made, the short animation movies– The Magic Scissors, The Cockroach and the Lizard, St. George and the Dragon, The Enchanted Palace, The Flight, The Animal Concert, The Bull fight, The Animal film company, Radha Krishna Leela, and The Fantasy.
We are working on the production of other animation movies specially one on "Mahishasuramardini Durga" and one on Buddha's Sadhana at Urvilla (Bodh Gaya) titled "Light through the leaves".
Zee telefilms telecast a short portion of my paper cutting animation in March 1999.
Chandigarh Doordarshan and Delhi Doordarshan (National) have screened some parts of our animations too in July 2004. The successful presentation of the paper cutting animation movies prove that traditional art and modern technology can join hands without distorting the time honoured outlook and methods creating a perfect harmony.


Prabal Pramanik
Published in Indian Horizons
(Volume 52 Summer Issue 2005)
Indian Council For Cultural Relations


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