Fusing indigenous crafts with a minimalist modernA�aesthetic, Gunjan Gupta is breaking into the inner circleA�of the worlda��s leading contemporary design artists.
IN THE sleepy lanes of Satbari farms, inA�Jaunapur, Mehrauli, one of Delhia��s manyA�a�?villagesa�� within the teeming metropolis,A�artist-designer Gunjan Guptaa��s studioA�appears large and imposing. However,A�the iron gates slide back to reveal an ecofriendlyA�studio space, where trees mingle
with the brick and stone structures withA�healthy abandon. Workers potter aroundA�assembling many unusual lookingA�shapes. There are pots and amphoraeA�that have the legs of a chair, tea cups shaped likeA�chemistry beakers, potli chairs and a bar made out ofA�beaten metal poles where the wine bottles peep out ofA�their tubular forms. It also has on display her popularA�designs like Navratna Tables (Table), BejeweledA�Navratna Discs (Tableware), Tea Stack (Tableware)A�and Rug Interrupted (Furnishing).A�We are at Wrap Art & Design, Guptaa��s 10-year-oldA�haven where her strongly sketched designs and creativeA�boards are made into their corporal metal andA�wood forms. The 10,000 sq ft studio thrives on bareA�brick walls and tin sheets that partition off the spaceA�that is both display area and workshop for the 41-yearoldA�industrial designer. The Mumbai-bred designer gotA�a lot of on-ground exposure while working with interiorA�designer Varsha Desai, before moving to Delhi toA�start out on her own.
The merit seat
On the verge of packing her bags for Venice where herA�works will be showcased at Venice Design 2016 (theA�15th International Architecture Exhibition of LaA�Biennale di Venezia 2016), Gupta takes some time off toA�tell us about how she used the inverted dome MughalA�architecture to inspire her next creation, her plans forA�the future and what she is looking forward to in 2016.A�Gupta is known as one of Indiaa��s leading product
designers and one of the emerging names on the internationalA�design circuit. She was first recognised forA�her gold-and-silver-leaf high-backed a�?Dining Thronea��A�in 2006, which has now evolved to a pared-down 2012A�cousin titled a�?Deconstructed Thronea�� which sports aA�willowy frame and lamA� upholstery. Known as the goldA�and silver chairs, they were created in Jaipur as partA�of her London MA post-graduation project.A�a�?I am thrilled that our work has been selected forA�the Venice Biennale (from May 28 to November 27),A�mostly because it is a juried event based on merit andA�is one of the biggest architecture biennales thatA�exists in Europe,a�? says Gupta whose trademarkA�style involves sculptural form, cleanA�lines and a refined contextualisation ofA�Indian craft traditions. This is not the firstA�time she has been making waves internationallyA�with her presence; she was featured atA�the prestigious Triennale Di Milano and inA�2012, and her Inspired by India series was presentedA�at Sothebya��s, London.
Case for handmade
The Central Saint Martina��s College of Art & DesignA�graduate practised Interior Design for eight yearsA�before she zeroed in on the bespoke furniture she wasA�designing for her clients. At Palazzo Michiel in VeniceA�this weekend, Gupta will be showcasing SacredA�Geometry. The handmade ensemble of SculpturalA�Furniture (tables and consoles) inspired by MughalA�Indian Architecture will use historical building techniques
and materials by traditional Indian craftsmanA�in Rajasthan. a�?I chose Mughal architecture as theA�theme behind my works because they encompass theA�festival theme of time, space and existence. The ideaA�was to work with an inverted dome form inspired byA�Humayuna��s Tomb in the Capital. The reason I workA�with Thathera and Kuftgiri master craftsmen fromA�Jaipur, is because most of our crafts is endangered,a�?
says Gupta, while sipping on a cooling glass of locallyA�produced lemonade. a�?Besides the amazing talent oneA�comes across, I love the ability of Indians to do a�?jugaada��A�(or being creative with limited resources). The worldA�can learn a lot from our ability to be thrifty and ourA�talent for improvising,a�? she says with a big smile.A�One of the reasons Gupta cites for the major slowA�down of the progress of crafts in India is the lack ofA�patronage. a�?With the market being flooded by manufactured,A�assembly-line products, we lost patronage ofA�made-by-hand products. That is why there has to be aA�revival of our indigenous crafts and one way of doingA�it is by fusing it with a minimalist modern aesthetic,a�?she explains.
Make in India story
While the Biennale is not a a�?point of salea�� venture, itA�has an international exposure that will trickle downA�to greater patronage. a�?The Biennale has a huge footfallA�and it also creates interactive booths and softwareA�that gives one a career graph of the artists featuredA�and so on,a�? adds Gupta who is extremely particularA�about the touch and feel of her products, which shouldA�evoke a sense of India. a�?Ita��s important not to be dominatedA�by the West. It is often hard for Indian or AsianA�design to be taken seriously or allowed to the innerA�circle of a�?top designersa�� and to arrive on the global
platform,a�? she says.A�Besides being Asian, Gupta has the added challengeA�of working in a field that is often dominated by men.A�a�?These challenges have been important to my journey,a�?A�she adds pointing out that many of her contemporariesA�like Nipa Doshi who are women usually live inA�the West. a�?It was a conscious decision to continue toA�live and work in India and draw from the well of inspirationA�that is available in our great wide culture,a�? saysA�Gupta who also points out that while we have a greatA�ancient tradition, we are young as a Contemporary orA�Modern culture. Her pet peeves are badly producedA�industrial design and a�?mass produced cookie cutterA�furniture that give no thought to form or theme.a�?
Eye on narrative
For Gupta the key word is innovation. a�?Whenever IA�am creating a piece of bespoke furniture I alwaysA�create a mood board with my team,a�? she explains adding.A�a�?My pieces focus on practicality without losingA�the narrative behind them.a�? A perfect example ofA�bringing narrative and form together is her interiorsA�project with A2, The Park Chennaia��s new restaurant.A�Based on a�?watera�� as a design theme, Gupta created furnitureA�that fed into the subject and took it further.A�Gupta had worked with Park Hotelsa�� chairpersonA�Priya Paul on customised furniture before, and theA�A2 project came about as a natural consequenceA�of that.A�While she is preparing to takeA�Venice by storm, Gupta intendsA�to bring the attention back to theA�local. She is undertaking the projectA�of renovating her studio toA�accommodate a viewing gallery thatA�will be open to the public, so mark yourA�calendars for the next cocktail event atA�Studio Wrap.
Gupta has given The Park Chennaia��s new restaurant,A�A2, shabby-chic interiors with burntA�wood and metal and has designed around aA�water theme (it is connected to the rooftop bar,A�Aqua, and features several water vessels). a�?a�?IA�like a straight narrative woven into the concept,a��a��
says Gupta. This is Studio Wrapa��s firstA�restaurant and the designer says the hotela��sA�tightly-knit team, led by Paul, helped her create
a product-driven space that has not beenA�attempted on this scale in the country. If youA�fancy her potli motif bar stools there or her elegantA�Eat Stack dinnerware elsewhere, there isA�some good news a�� Gupta is planning to makeA�her consumer line more accessible. FashionA�too, is on the cards, but it is a�?a�?too early to talk.a��a��
NEED TO KNOW
Gupta won the British Councila��s YoungA�Creative Entrepreneur award in 2007A�In 2012, she won the Designer of the YearA�award by Elle DA�cor
“By showcasing at fairs likeA�Design Miami, Basel andA�Design Days Dubai and withA�European galleries, I am
pushing the envelope ofA�Indian luxury handicraft -Gunjan Gupta”
VENICE IN FOCUS
Thrilled to work with celebrated designers likeA�Karim Rashid at Venice Design 2016, Gupta saysA�it is a landmark moment in a career that gainedA�momentum when she graduated in FurnitureA�Design from Central St Martins, London.A�Recalling her student years there, when her
older daughter was just two years old (she hasA�two daughters now, aged 13 and 5), she says itA�helped to have a supportive husband.
a�?a�?Stepping back from India and engaging withA�its culture and history changed my perspective.a��a��A�As for Venice, she says, a�?a�?to me it resonatesA�with the endangered craft seen in India.a��a��A�Exploring the concepts of time, space and existence,A�the sculptural tables she will present inA�Venice are named anu (atom) and parmanuA�(split atom). They were made in collaborationA�with Rajasthana��s Thathera craftsmen.
By Georgina Maddox