Aiyana Gunjan, self-taught artist, traveller and corporate high-flier, turns to her first love—the ink pen—in her debut solo show titled The Moving Finger, drawing on the fine art of calligraphy. She talks to The Goodwill Project about what inspires her art.
Tell us about your debut show and how it came together.
My debut solo show is a culmination of my inner journey over the last decade.
I experienced life inside-out,
And now it’s time to let go
All that I held closely within…
It’s time to bring out the colors, the silence, the harmony, the space, the fluidity, the spontaneity, the rhythm I experienced in this ‘Snorkelling’ of Life. I have lived my story through my art; I have experienced and dialogued with myself through my art.
Now it’s time for the art to create new dialogues, new stories, new experiences for others. I have lived them and it’s time to let them live their own destiny, where it takes them. It’s my way of sharing and spreading the joy, happiness and fulfillment I received from the Universe, through this creative process called art. My debut show is my offering in gratitude to my Gurus, my parents and all the treasures of my heart.
From the Universe,
To the Universe,
I offer back…
What draws you to calligraphy?
I have been drawn to ink pen and paper since my childhood. I used to love writing, doodling, scribbling wherever I found a pen and paper in my hand. I would get scolded by my mom for doodling all over her phone book while I talked on the phone. Since Class 6, when we were introduced to ink pens, I would spend hours over my pen and nib. I would go to the stationer to customize my nib and broaden the width. I have been crazy about pens and ink pens since childhood. As many I had, as many I lost…it has always been a flow. Every pen I hold in my hand, I feel a sense of belonging and ownership with it.
In today’s times of ballpens and computers, I missed the opportunity to write with my ink pen. Even though I always carry my fancy ink-pen in my bag, I find few occasions to put my pen to paper. Even signatures don’t require ink-pens. In the last decade, I encountered the fine art of calligraphy with Anis Siddique and there has been no looking back. My pen, my ink, my paper found true expression in calligraphy. It felt like a karmic connection.
Tell us about your childhood, creating craft projects with Fevicryl and how you kept in touch with your artistic streak?
A science -bio student in Modern School, I dissected flowers and rats, and yet my teacher Mridula Vichitra laid a strong foundation in art, craft and traditional art sensibilities. Art, music and dance have been an integral part of my growing years. My father was employed by the Fevicol company and my creativity was always encouraged and fuelled.
Has your advertising background played a role in your art?
When I graduated from MBE in 1993, the financial industry was at its peak. There were no advertising agencies invited for campus placement. I got placed at CII from the campus. It was my passion, my love for creativity and brand management that made me apply to ad agencies on my own. I got my first job at O&M (Ogilvy) as a strategic planner. My job as a planner, across two decades, kept me linked to the magic in the creative process. I was responsible for providing the springboard or the creative brief for the creative to leap from. Though I was on the strategic side of business, advertising kept my creative genes alive and kicking. My planning role and responsibility combined my strong analytical logical ability with my creative imaginative side. I am a firm believer in the methods, materials and symbolism of the creative process, per se.
Your art is closely linked to religion. Have you deeply studied various texts, any personal connections you draw on?
My training, my journey in spirituality in the last decade has fueled my growth as an artist, rather than a formal art degree. I am a very pen and paper person and I tend to write everything that speaks to me. In my spiritual journey, whatever text spoke to me and touched me, found its expression beautifully in calligraphy and color. I was not making a painting but simply writing the text that touched me, in the dynamic beauty of calligraphy. They were all notes to myself, in calligraphy.
What is it, from across cultures / religions that inspires you in your personal life?
The most important fuel as an artist has been to feel, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live…to be a human being. My faith empowered me to acknowledge, to respect, to listen, to act upon to my own unique voice. My art has been my compulsion that connected me to the depths of my inner being. My religion is Now-Here. Or else I’m nowhere. My calligraphy is the centering of my being in the nowness.
In the realm of faith and spirituality
I am a multi-linguist.
…comprehending, appreciating, imbibing
the multi-languages, multi-expressions
across different religion and pathways…
To find the bottom-line
The Unity in Mutliplicity
Could you talk about a few of your works and the inspiration behind them?
My piece In praise of Lotus Sutra was the spiritual attainment of my pen. In one flow of four hours, I penned the entire liturgy–Gongyo that we recite every day. Unity in Multiplicity celebrates the different expressions and symbols of the diversity in faith. I don’t understand why we fight in name of religion. I see One-ness, beauty in these colors of faith. And that is what makes my land–India, so beautiful and sacred. Day And Night depicts the Buddhist concept of “past, present and future being in the moment”. In today’s time when we are connected to the world around the clock, there are indeed no time barriers. There is no concept of day and night, the orange depicts sunshine in our lives and the blue is the depth within.
In I AM (2015), I have transcribed the entire Shivoham song in English script in the shape of a circle or bindu using the calligraphy pen. I am a Shiva “bhakt” (devotee) and Shiva is the energy behind all creation, destruction and recreation. The work for me is about coming a full circle of life and getting closer to an unbounded consciousness of what life and death is about.”
Besides religion, what else inspires your art?
I do not make ‘religious’ paintings; I simply express all that is intrinsic to life and the living. My art has been an inner expression of whatever has touched my life—my music, the birds, fish, flowers in nature, the feminine energy, universal aspiration, the magic and mystery of the universe within and without.
What’s next in your journey as an artist?
The organic texture and flavor of the natural material inspires me. I have used natural bamboo pens, handmade paper, and now I want to explore, go deeper in the naturalness of methods and materials. Next, I aspire to learn using traditional natural pigments, with my calligraphy pen. The natural palette excites me. I awaken to my role as an artist towards creating a new consciousness.
(Curated by art historian Dr Alka Pande, the show titled The Moving Finger, with more than 100 paintings will be on at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on October 23-27, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)