In his first solo exhibition Metropolis and City Planners, Sachin George Sebastian (b. 1985) draws on his experience of migrating from a small town in Kerala to the metropolitan capital city Delhi, via detours in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. As he describes it, it was an unsettling encounter with a monstrous city, simultaneously crowded and closed off from a sense of community and human interaction. His first impression of the city as large and looming didn’t lessen over time and it is the primary informant in the creation of his work. He walks among the highrises and skyscrapers and experiences them as monstrous, imposing monoliths and it is this sense of being engulfed by a concrete manmade jungle whose inhabitants are a faceless multitude that Sachin attempts to convey through his installations and paper relief works.
One of his installation occupies a small dark room. The city’s promise but also indifference is magnified in the far distance, reconstructed as layers upon layers of dense highrises and ubiquitous beings are seen approaching the city in single file rows strung across the room like clotheslines. The density of the city throws the flimsy existence of the individual in sharp contrast. Sachin cleverly manipulates paper to create multitudes of experiences – dense and singular, solid and featherweight, multi and one-dimensional.
His interest in constructed space and everyday life lived within it means that he is an acute observer of the visions of contemporary life that the urban city allows. As Indian metropolises address the needs of an ever-increasing populace, the multistory building is the architectural form of preference. And thus life is glimpsed through open windows and on balconies. The city is reduced in Sachin’s work to a collection of buildings, either barren or with partially open windows in which vignettes of lived lives – a person writing at a desk, a father lifting a child, a flower pot – may be seen.
Sachin’s work is an encounter of many kinds and one is the commingling the natural and manmade world. Thus crowds of people open up like a beautiful gigantic flower and the swirling city is constructed as a colossal wave. But in a room sized installation Replacement the encounter turns in an altogether different direction. A wooden pillar stands floor to ceiling in the centre of the room surrounded by paper cut outs of indistinguishable human figures. Wood is a recent entrant in Sachin’s material vocabulary and here the monolith resembles a monument imparting a veil of gloom and historicity to the installation, as if to say, it is perhaps already too late.
Trained in communication design at the National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad) it was the fascination with the pop-up book form that started Sachin on his mastery of paper engineering and led him further in his investigations with paper that have led to panoramic works of great delicacy and whimsy. Sachin uses a combination of folding and cutting to create his works. In some ways these are opposite practices for the former contracts a sheet while the latter expands it and thus together they lend impossible elasticity and dimensionality to a sheet of paper. Sachin also adds the elements of layering, including dramatic shadow play, to further the visual field, adding perspective to his meticulously crafted cityscapes.