A Professional Artist, Educator, Art Critic and Co-founder of You Lead India Foundation, Dr. Gunjan Shrivastava has been creating art for 20 years now as a contemporary visual artist. An emerging artist never sticking to just one brand of work, here’s PEAKLIFE in conversation with the acclaimed artist.
Born and brought in the spiritual city of Allahabad, Gunjan Shrivastava is a trained contemporary Visual artist, holding a Ph.D. in Visual Arts and a diploma in textile design.
Creating through 20 years, she’s been exploring different art mediums and inspirations through her journey. Dr. Gunjan has also exhibited in many solo and group shows and has her works in many private collections in India and abroad.
Never restricting herself to one style or medium of work, here’s Dr. Gunjan in colloquy…
1.) Starting off, how did your journey as an artist begin? Were you always passionate about it?
I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. I always enjoyed drawing and painting as it came naturally to me. This is the main reason I ended up taking art as my preferred subject in all my courses. Something that just started with passion soon turned into serious exploration during my post-graduate degree in fine arts. Continuing the momentum, I went on to do my Ph.D. in Visual Arts and Since then I have been in the field of art in different capacities which involves art education and freelancing as an artist.
2.) As an artist, what message do you keep in mind while working on your pieces? Is there always a basic running theme?
I enjoy working intuitively, giving myself the freedom to change my subjects from time to time. Taking inspiration from the vivid world around me, I have created my works on urbanscapes, seascapes, and abstract landscapes earlier. The beautiful ever-changing skies, the sunsets, and the organic natural forms are my favourite muse. Though, nature has always been an inspiration that flows through all my works.
3.) It’s fascinating that you don’t stick to only one art form but play around with many concepts. One concept is using cyanotype. Could you tell us a bit about how you incorporate cyanotype in your artwork?
Experimentation is a major part of my work while developing my final work. Like all trained artists, I started with traditional methods and mediums of painting but years later I found the pleasure in conceptualizing new stories through my cyanotype processes.
In my signature collection, I use broken and aged leaves as my subject. The conceptual idea behind the collection is to give them a new life. I use the age-old photographic printing process cyanotype to create unique prints. The whole process of cyanotype is quite intriguing, as we have to apply a combination of chemicals on the surface and after placing the subject on the surface, we expose it to sunlight or UV light which primarily develop into bright cyan blueprints. It is a technical process that requires precision and science. The uniqueness to my signature work comes from the hand embroidery I do on these prints.
4.) Talking about the current situation, how has the pandemic helped shape your art? Has it been a positive force or the opposite?
This new situation in our lives did not come with a manual, it was initially overwhelming and scary. While adjusting to the new change, creative forces within me helped to channelize to a new direction. The lack of deadlines gave time to recharge, though, it took time to get back to the studio but I think it was a much-needed pause. It gave me time to work on ideas for my new collection. I believe that art is an artist’s deep conceptual engagement, through which he/she forms his own unique way of seeing the world so when the world changes your art starts reflecting the same.
5.) Because of the pandemic, museums are surely not proffered as before. So how do you see the art industry changing in terms of that?
This pandemic has definitely seen a change in artistic trends and perhaps changed the landscape of the industry forever. While many large events have been cancelled or postponed, some have moved to virtual platforms. The new trend or rather the shift toward online exhibition is going to stay. Major museums had already started to have their collection online but now even galleries are moving towards more viewer friendly virtual experience. Though, world will surface back to on-site exhibits but still this pandemic has taught us a new way of looking at art especially benefitting for artists who found it a challenge to find space in galleries.
6.) Lastly, any advice for those venturing in the same sphere as you?
All the best ideas come out of the process, every work you do, regardless of it being good or bad will teach you something. Explore, be open to exploring new techniques, experiment with unknown mediums. Don’t put yourself into a box, you never know what might work for you. Lastly, enjoy your process of artmaking, don’t always look for a final piece. Your best artworks will always have a story of their own.