Gunjan’s game of thrones

Design junkies who fancy Gunjan Gupta’s thrones are in for a treat at this edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). The Delhi-based product designer and artist will be presenting 12 of her sculptural seats here, including a few that continue her strong cultural narrative with street vendors. So for fans of her Bori Cycle Throne, created in collaboration with cycle mechanics years ago, there is the steel ball-framed Kilonewala Bicycle Throne, a cheery nod to toy sellers. And hawkers selling utensils are referenced in Bartan Wallah, featuring hand-beaten brass vessels.

Gunjan, 42, has for over a decade explored the notions of time, space, and existence with furniture, products and installations at her studio, Wrap. A graduate from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London, her first piece was an 18ct gold and silver wrapped chair that she christened as Dining Throne. Borrowing the ancient silver wrapping technique used on thrones, she gave a contemporary spin to a traditional craft. Earlier this year, when she represented India at Venice Design 2016, her collection of tables was inspired by Mughal architecture and created in collaboration with the thatheran craftsmen of Rajasthan.

Working with endangered crafts gives luxury a sustainable edge, she agrees, but it is also a commentary on time, a concept that also interests KMB 2016 curator Sudarshan Shetty. Another coincidence? Gunjan, who has been researching the introduction of elevated seating in India by the Europeans, says that when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on Indian shores in Calicut in 1498, in essence, he brought the chair with him. “At the time, thrones were symbols of power, and Indian society primarily sat on the floor or on mattresses,” she says.

Thus, one of her installations at Kissa Kursi Ka — a chairy tale, is the Totem Pole, featuring piled-up objects that were used as seating before the chair arrived. Her iconic Dining Throne will be reimagined by photographer Bandeep Singh. And the sculptural imagery of a bamboo seller will be seen in Muda Wallah. Gunjan also invites KMB visitors to put the Aloo Bori Sofa to the test. An extension of the Bori Sofa that was shown at the Design Miami in Basel, this piece “subverts the idea of a couch potato,” she says, adding, “The most common reaction is of familiarity with the archetype of a jute sack stuffed with potatoes. It is followed by curiosity. The look on people’s faces when they sit on it is of comfort and excitement.”

Gunjan says her work for Kissa Kursi Ka, contextualised by Japanese curator Yoichi Nakamuta, has spanned four months and many discussions with co-founder Riyas Komu. As a mother of two young children, she is certain her chairs will go down well with young visitors. And while you can’t miss her staples, like the Indian mattress rolled into The Gadda Chair, or the laundry sack in The Potli Chair, pay attention to her Do Not handle With Care Matka Mix. Mundane terracotta is given the stone treatment, making it yet another tongue-in-cheek reference to sustainable luxury.

From December 12 to March 29. At Heritage Art, Jew Town.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 11:31:30 PM |

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