Gunjan Aylawadi

It’s hard not to be impressed by painstakingly meticulous creative work. In an era when so much of the visual stimuli that surrounds us is digitally altered, retouched and enhanced, it’s particularly powerful when we come across a hands-on creative practice that speaks of intense work ethic and attention to detail.

This certainly describes the astounding work of Sydney based artist Gunjan Aylawadi, who joins other paper artists in a group exhibition at Linden New Art in St Kilda this month.

Lucy Feagins

Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi at work.

Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi at work.

Works in progress by Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi.

Works by Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi for show she is working towards in Amsterdam next month.

Works in progress by Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi.

Works in progress by Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi.

‘Tikrar’ – a detail of work made for an exhibition in Sydney last year.

‘Boteh’, a Paisley motif made by individually hand cut and curled paper strips by Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi.

Sydney artist Gunjan Aylawadi at home in Kirribilli.

Lucy Feagins
7th of May 2015

Artist Gunjan Aylawadi lives and works in Kirribilli, though she grew up in India, and spent time living in London and Philadelphia before setting in Sydney.

Now a full-time artist, Gunjan originally studied computer science engineering and industrial design. Like so many creatives, the path to what she’s doing now hasn’t been entirely straightforward, thought it’s easy to see where her practical engineering skills play into her impressive creative output. Her highly detailed sculptural artworks are designed mathematically, then created by cutting delicate strips of paper, curling and then connecting them to create incredible ‘paper tapestries’. It’s mind boggling stuff!

Gunjan’s work will be exhibited in a group exhibition opening at Linden New Art in Melbourne tomorrow! Entitled ‘Linden Projects: Paper’, the show brings together four contemporary artists who each use paper in their practice.

We asked Gunjan a few questions in the lead up to this exhibition!

Tell us a little about your background – what did you study, when did you start creating sculptural paper pieces, and what initially prompted your exploration of paper as art practice?

I’m a computer science engineer by education, and also have a diploma in industrial design from Enmore Design Centre. Before being a full time artist, I worked in visual communication and branding. When it comes to career, I’ve had a change of heart a few times. But what has been a constant is my adoration for crafts and for making things in general.

I’ve always felt a certain sense of confidence with paper as a material. But about two years ago I decided to push my own boundaries and do something new and challenging with the medium. Months of experimentation led me to my current technique. I’m attracted to the detail, the final texture and the transformation into something that does not look like paper at all. It’s a hard process but the results are very rewarding.

Your work appears incredibly labour intensive!  On average, how long does it take to complete each piece? Do you ever employ assistants to help complete your larger scale works?

It definitely is a journey in patience – which is quite revealing personally, since I’m not a patient person at all in other parts of my life. The time that a piece takes depends on the complexity of the design – as an indicator, each of the four works that will be in the exhibition at Linden took me about 50 hours to create.

I like working alone on these projects and so far I’ve been able to pull it off. The process is repetitive, and to an extent meditative, and it puts me in a state of flow where I do not like to be distracted at all.

Tell us a little about your creative process when starting on a new body of work. 

Planning a design and sketching it out is a crucial first step in my process. A big part of my inspiration comes from our collective history of craftsmanship and paying tribute to our ancestors, who with their limited tools, have left us a legacy of impeccable arabesque mosaics evident in architecture around the world.  I’m obsessed with trying to achieve a similar level of perfection in my work (which I haven’t done yet but is a definite goal!) and getting the measurements right down to every millimetre is important.

I completely enjoy the task of simplifying a pattern and exercising as much control as possible at the drawing stage. You can tell I’ve started a new design, when I’m at my desk with a ruler, compass and a protractor, frantically calculating all the possible dimensions on colourful scraps of paper. The work is about precision and I usually follow the old rule for tailors – measure twice, cut once!

What will visitors see at the exhibition at Linden New Art this month?  

I’m really excited about the show at Linden. You’ll see a floor installation of simple geometric forms rendered in my paper sculpting technique. My hope is that the extraordinary size, vibrant colours and the sheer detail in the work will make viewers stop and see these common forms in a different light. I’ve tried to explore the ideas of repetition, perfection and what it means to be a craftsman. In an age where we are always sprinting towards the next thing, my work is informed by the difficult act of slowing down to pay attention to details and revel in their beauty.

Beyond your upcoming exhibition at Linden New Art, what’s next on the horizon for you?

I’ve been lucky to have been invited to a bunch of exhibitions all over Australia last year and I’m working on a few projects at the moment, but the next big exhibition is for the CODA Museum in Amsterdam from June to October this year. I’ve been making a large paper installation (approximately 2 metres x 3 meters) for the last seven months and I’m really excited to be nearing the end on that one!

Linden Projects : Paper
May 8th – July 12th 2015

Linden New Art
26 Acland St
St Kilda 

Tuesday – Friday 1pm to 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 11am to 5pm

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