series of papier-mâché masks


Every profound spirit needs a mask. Friedrich Nietzsche1

The masks are probably one of the most spectacular examples of plastic arts. Despite their essential familiarity and widespread use through history, masks remain something of an enigma2. Religious rituals of various forms in cultures all over the world also have wide use of masks in initiation rites, life-cycle ceremonies, rites of exorcism and ritual healing.

The origin of the mask has been traced to pre-historic man. (Depictions of masks have been found in many cave paintings.) The ancient world treated masks as instruments of revelations – a pathway to the world of gods and other invisible powers – by giving form to the formless. While the primitive man, out of fear of the natural power around them, copied the world of animals and natural phenomena through symbols, paintings and sketches, the fear of the dynamism of nature within and outside, propelled him to create masks as a linkage between his world and the unknown. It was believed that masks served the community by striking a harmonious balance with the forces of nature and the spirits world. They serve multiple functions, all of which contribute in expressing the human messages, which they personify: to evoke certain reactions in the beholder, for instance, awe of the god represented, fear in an enemy, or ecstasy in possession or trance, to cure disease, crops by impersonating the supernatural power, to represent religious totems, to emphasise social wrongs by enacting the role of wrongdoer or by satire3.

As a tool in both popular and sophisticated theatrical forms, the mask helps in portraying various socio-cultural themes through direct or indirect or even satiric depiction of people or various social concepts4. 

The mask is a magical face, an archetype and a mirror.
I was always thinking that when a person sees a mask involuntary reacts with kind of association. Is it me? Is it human or something more? Something divine?
The ancient Latin word for mask is “persona” which literally indicates “false face”, an aspect of the personality shown to/or perceived by others. While it is the field of behavioural psychology that delves into the nuances of multiple selves of a person, for the common man, the search for the ‘self’ as well as its reflective imaginations has led to the discovery of the mask – something that could give form to various guises which were far from the conscious self but close to the mind.

Inspired by the reach cultural and symbolic capital of the masks I started experimenting with papier-mâché, creating this series.

“Every profound spirit needs a mask: even more, around every profound spirit a mask is continually growing.” Friedrich Nietzsche (2009). “Basic Writings of Nietzsche”, p.241, Modern Library
Masks and the Semiotics of Identity, Donald Pollock, State University of New York at Buffalo
Masks: Reflections of Culture and Religion—Madhuri Guin
Mask and Performance in Greek Tragedy: From Ancient Festival to Modern Experimentation, David Wiles,Cambridge University Press; Illustrated edition (September 3, 2007) and Masks: Reflections of Culture and Religion—Madhuri Guin