Weaving memories of India: Gunjan Aylawadi

Sydney-based industrial designer and self-taught artist Gunjan Aylawadi makes paper weavings inspired by her memories of India.

Gunjan Aylawadi had been looking for a new paper art technique for some time before she hit upon the curled paper threads that would become her signature style. You might ask why, having just finished a degree in computer science, she was looking for a paper technique at all. One answer is that to Aylawadi, paper represents creative freedom. She was approaching the end of a year of enforced leisure in the US at the time; her new husband was working in Philadelphia but her visa did not allow her to work there. “Nobody was going to stop me from making my own life out of this simple material that is just everywhere,” she recalls thinking. She had just been trying to wrap some wire in coloured paper for a lamp prototype when inspiration struck: the beautiful aftermath of unravelling colour reminded her of the texture and pattern of a new carpet. “I saw on the internet a lot of people working with paper that I could never match up to because they were so far ahead in their skills. I wanted to do something completely new,” she says.

Gather Around (2017).

Gather Around (2017).

Image: Gunjan Aylawadi

Her interest in paper goes back to her childhood in India. Her highly religious parents tolerated craft and creativity in their children but discouraged an artistic career, encouraging more academic and professional pursuits. The area they lived in was famous for its kite flying culture,
yet her parents wouldn’t let their children participate. So Aylawadi made them
herself from old newspapers – a material abundantly available and easy to manipulate – transforming it is almost like creating something from nothing.

Aylawadi has a restless, entrepreneurial spirit that is constantly engaging with some project or other and nearly always more than one at a time. “I’m not one to sit on the couch and watch TV,” she says. Up until early 2018 (and the birth of her baby) her focus was divided between her art practice and a restaurant start-up she is developing with her husband. With her burning energy it may come as a surprise to see her produce works that require such a long time commitment,
some taking more than a month to complete. It isn’t easy sticking delicate paper curls down before they unravel and creating such precise forms. She is inspired by her husband; he is meticulous. (She tells the story of watching him clean a pair of shoes for two hours!) So she willed herself to persevere and this has reaped rewards.

Aylawadi at work.

Aylawadi at work.

Image: Puneet Singh Nagi

Within three months of beginning the paper curl technique she was in Sydney studying product design and her exposure to 3D printing provided further inspiration for her art.

Weaving back and forth, 3D printers lay down a thread of melted plastic, adding one layer onto the next. Following this logic, her work began to take on more three-dimensional volumetric effects. But in contrast to a 3D printer, which is simply translating a fully finished computer model into hardened plastic, Aylawadi begins with a drawing of a geometric 2D shape and an idea in her head about what might be possible in three dimensions. One of her recent works is a composition that began as four flat circles that Aylawadi joined together with voluptuous arabesques; 3D shapes that emerged through the process of making.

She attributes her rapid artistic success to good luck and good photographs, and in this internet age she has a point. Her marketing consists of photographs published on her website and Instagram feed, and ever since a few influential blogs picked her up she hasn’t needed to apply for shows. She chose not to be represented by a gallery because they would demand a minimum output of work per year. Yet she has been invited to exhibit at Sydney Contemporary as well as galleries in Victoria and Queensland and as far afield as Amsterdam.

Sand of Silver (2016);

Sand of Silver (2016);

Image: Gunjan Aylawadi

Aylawadi loves food and furniture design as much as art. She is looking forward to designing the furniture and interiors of the restaurant when it materializes. At this stage there is no connection between her art practice and the future restaurant, but she hopes that one day all her interests will converge. With her intelligence, dedication and creative spirit, I have no doubt that when that happens, it will be amazing.

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