Nanda Gajarawala interview: Inspired by nature
Nanda Gajarawala specialises in needlework technique to create abstract and traditional Indian textile art inspired by nature. Through sewing Indian motifs onto mosquito net and fabric, a product typically used to protect humans from nature is transformed into a portal by which we can appreciate nature’s beauty; this juxtaposition is the crux of much of her work.
Most recently, Nanda has exhibited in the Srishti Contemporary Art of India at the Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad. She has won several awards for her work as a fiber artist, including first prize at the 29th National Exhibition of Arts Awards for Women.
She now lives and works in the USA.
Textile art is in my genes
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Nanda Gajarawala: I have always felt as though textile art is in my genes. Born and raised in India, I was constantly surrounded by traditional craft and textiles. My mother and grandmother taught me needlework techniques, and at an early age I began to embroider everything from tablecloths to saris.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My early influences were my grandmother and mother. However, my current style was influenced by my my daughter. After my husband passed away and I became a widow with three children at a young age, my daughter inspired me to do what I wanted. She was pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at the time and knew I yearned to create something unique. It was at this time where I came across mosquito nets and decided to make them my medium of choice.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
My path has been a bit unconventional. I didn’t decide to become an artist. I simply felt I needed to create and express something in a unique way. Continuing to do what I love and expressing my vision turned into its own art. After creating mosquito net paintings for over 40 years – I became an artist.
Connecting with nature
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
Mosquito net and thread are my primary medium. I draw images of birds onto the net free-hand. I then begin to embroider. Over the years I have developed many different techniques to add to the motifs by incorporating the use of chalk, crayons, and varying the weaving pattern.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I describe my work as an example of transforming a product that is initially used to protect us from nature into a way for us to connect with nature. I think in the contemporary art world – we are starting to look for opportunities to connect with our surroundings in a more tactile way.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I spend approximately 8 hours a day working on a piece. Larger pieces of mine can take up to a year to complete. I usually work from home but can work anywhere, as my materials are easily transportable.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
My textile art has always been inspired by nature. Its ever-changing ability is what allows me to create. Over the years, I have specifically focused on birds, as I feel birds represent our ideals. I admire other artists who have a continuous urge to create just as I do.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
My painting “Got Milk” is a piece that is very special to me because my daughter and I created our own versions of this image using our own mediums. I used mosquito net and thread and she used oil pastels and canvas. Its amazing to connect with your child in such a unique way.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
When I began my work, my abstract motifs ranged in imagery however, over the years I have developed a focus on birds. I yearn to journey through life as they do – flying high. I cannot predict how my work will evolve in the future as I create in the present and what inspires me now.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I show my work where I feel it can best be observed and allow the viewer create its own connection with it.
Where can readers see your work this year?
I am currently finalizing these details and cannot provide specifics at this time.
For more information please visit: www.nandagajarawala.com
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