The paper magician

BHAVNA UCHIL meets Rajendra Gole, an artist who creates life-like art-work.

Rajendra Gole’s studio in Kandivili’s Charkop is inviting, with antique chairs in the foyer and melodious Hindi film music playing in the background. In the first floor of the studio where he makes the impossible possible, is the pungent smell of fabric paint.

“Many a times people doubt whether the work is actually made of paper, so I have to give them a live demo,” says Rajendra Gole. A 1989 J.J. School pass out, Golehas been making miniature paper sculptures for over 25 years. His exhibitions at the city’s leading art galleries have got tremendous response.

The paper magician

Given the kind of shapes that paper takes in his skilled hands, the doubtful people among

The paper magician

us cannot be blamed. While sometimes it becomes a cheetah, sometimes a monkey, then takes the avatar of the beautiful ‘Anarkali’ from the film Mughal-e-Azam, but mostly it becomes flowers and ferns.

He uses the most unlikely of tools, among them the Japanese noodle sticks, instruments used in making Kolhapuri chappal designs, the goldsmith’s instruments, the dentist’s tools, a nail cutter and a tongue cleaner cut in half through its bend! “I don’t restrict myself with tools. When I go to the market, I buy small things. Many of them come useful for my work,” he says, showing an incense stick holder and children’s toys which he uses to make shapes such as pots in his miniature sculptures. “We just have to look at things differently,” he says.

The paper magician

Hailing from Akola, his work has an undeniable influence of nature, green being a dominant colour in his work. “At home we had peacocks, ducks, pigeons, chickens and dogs. My parents were both fond in gardening,” he says. “Now I keep them in this way,” he says, laughing, showing a wine glass with miniature birds and animals in it.

The paper magician

 “This is made of paper,”he says, showing a brown bullock cart miniature. One could swear it is wooden! Gole was interested in paper craft since in class 1. “I remember my teacher called my father to school, telling him I don’t take interest in studies. But she was not complaining. She asked my father to admit me to J.J. school when the time comes,” he recounts. His father, who Gole credits for his achievements, did not forget the teacher’s advice.

Gole made his first paper sculpture in 1983. “I don’t use any kind of reference for my work nor do I make an initial sketch. It’s all straight from imagination,” he says, showing the Chardham temple, his first piece, which he has given a pride of place in his studio.

The paper magician

His work is intricate and detailed, each petal and each blade of grass carefully cut and assembled using adhesive.On an average, he puts in 13-14 hours of work a day for one-and-a-half months for every piece. His work sells in square-inch rates starting from Rs.75,000 for the smallest going up to Rs. 12 lakh, depending on the more intricate the work.

The paper magician

“Since paper is a flat medium, to turn into sculpture is difficult. It took me a lot of experimentation over the years to learn the techniques,” says Gole, who is largely self-taught in his niche field of art. “I use imported handmade paper and German Alabaster paper or executive bond paper for the work,” he says, showing the folds in Anarkali’s dress for which he used tissue paper. “Only tissue paper can give such folds,” he adds,emphasising that innovation is key.

The paper magician

“I put a lot of thought into how the designs in each piece should complement the theme,” he says. “When a woman gets ready for a wedding, she puts thought intomatching her dressing with jewellery, these works have to be designed with the same care,” he explains. “For instance, while there are climbers in the miniature, the wall also has designs of climbers,” he says, showing one of his works. “It is important that even a layman should be able to appreciate the art, such should be its appeal,” he says.

The paper magician

Most of his clients are collectors and corporates and once he exhibits his work, while most pieces are sold in the first few days, he is kept busy for the next two years making pieces to order. A client of his, who gave Gole a photograph of their home in Satarato make into a miniature, had been carrying the piece along whenever he got transferred.

The paper magician

The piece was a gift to his wife.“Thankfully he didn’t chop off my hand,” says Gole, laughing, referring to the myth that Emperor Shah Jahanhad chopped off hands of architect Ahmed Lahauri who built the Taj Mahal.

“Paper has a lot of scope. I want art students to learn and practise this art, paper has to be taken beyond just craft,” he says.

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