While watching the latest season of the American TV series Game of Thrones, artist Parth Kothekar couldn’t help but notice how much the on-screen characters looked like Indians. The 26-year-old pulled out some paper and a knife and got to work.
In the paper-cuttings, Kothekar’s characters retain the details that author George RR Martin endowed them with in his literary creation, A Song of Fire and Ice. Jon Snow wears a feathered turban, Arya Stark hides her sword, Needle, in the folds of her sari and the Khaleesi pulls a sari palla over her head while balancing a baby dragon on her shoulder.
Kothekar’s paper art involves making delicate and precise cuts on a thick sheet of white paper. This art of depicting silhouette and stencil forms originated in China and made its way to different countries, where it adapted to different cultural styles – kirigami in Japan, papel picado in Mexico and sanjhi in India.
Kothekar began paper-cutting almost four years ago while working on a graffiti stencil. “It takes a steady hand to create paper-cuts,” he said. “I had enough practice in controlling my hands during delicate work thanks to my experience cutting out stencils. It was the idea of reversing the stencil that made me curious.”
The Ahmedabad-based artist has over 13,000 followers on Instagram and regularly posts pictures of his creations online. His latest features a paper cut Tyrion Lannister in a dhoti-kurta and a stole.
Kothekar said each creation is a gamble: “Before I start creating an artwork I have an image in my mind but even I’m unsure of what it’s going to look like in the end. I sketch on a white paper, cut out the artwork and then paint it black. To be honest even my jaw drops at times, there are no words to describe my satisfaction in that moment when I successfully create what I set out to make.”
Once a student of animation, Kothekar dropped out of the institute he had enrolled in because its focus was on 3D-animation while, as he realised, his interest lay in an older 2D form.
Since the first season of the wildly popular Game of Thrones, the show has inspired posts that imagine who would play its characters in a Bollywood remake, or spoofs about how the characters would react to certain situations if they were in an Indian film. Kothekar focuses on the costumes.
“I felt like that was the most visible aspect of Game of Thrones – the period costumes, jewellery, footwear,” he said.
Even the Night King’s horse is decked up in a way that suggests he is on his way to attend an Indian wedding.
Another one of Kothekar’s previous series reimagined the Indian sari-wearing woman as a mermaid. In these images, the swish of a mermaid’s tail and the gentle flow of the sari melded together to bring out the beauty of the female form.
“Since childhood I have seen my mother in sari,” he said, explaining the inspiration behind the series. “What fascinates me is the fact that this meticulous yet complex appearing piece of clothing is nothing but a single, long drape and women carry it with such elegance.”
Since his first exhibition in 2013, at the Kanoria Centre for Arts in Ahmedabad, Kothekar’s work has found appreciation in the Indian art world, but not many buyers. Most of his customers, he said, order paper-cut art from the US. His works are available on the US-based e-commerce website Etsy, where each one is priced between Rs 2,500 to Rs 6,000.