Growing up in a joint family in Delhi, Aakanksha Gaur was always surrounded by crafts made by the women of the house to beautify the home. Crocheted TV covers, knitted doilies and handmade table mats were commonplace and handkerchiefs were embroidered with the owner’s initials. This was the birthplace of her passion as an artist. She went on to study engineering, and design at National Institute of Design, Bengaluru and worked in tech for a decade, before her calling caught up with her.
The 37-year-old artist draws women mostly, inspired by her understanding of her own existence and the politics surrounding it. In a culture that still only seeks to objectify the female form, Gaur’s depictions of women’s bodies in their many shapes and states nudges the viewer to shift their perspective.
Last December, she quit her job to become a full time artist—a planned shift to help her focus on her calling, as Gaur puts it. And last month, she displayed a curated set of 50 pieces of artwork in her own home and opened her doors to over 200 visitors. In the coming months, the artist plans to engage in collaborations that involve tattoos and ceramics.
In an interview with Lounge, Gaur speaks of the joy of working with her hands, her chaotic workspace and what anchors her practice. Edited excerpts.
I draw women. In all shapes and sizes. Making space for women’s bodies in art has been talked about a lot, yet we still don’t see them in our art institutions and in our art history. I feel that being a woman, I have the most insight into my own body and the surrounding social structures and the politics of it. I understand it most in my bones and hence can only do justice to those forms.
My current workspace is at my home and it is five steps (I counted) from my bedroom. It is a space that overlooks the terrace and has one solid wall (the rest being windows). My desk was a gift from the family that owns this space and is a sturdy old vintage centre table. I use the wall for displaying my daily meditation drawings and snippets from my sketchbooks. I have a few storage drawers. The windows let in enough sunshine and views of the open sky.
It has definitely evolved. I used to work at the dining table, spreading out my papers and pens and refusing to clean up till I received ultimatums from my mother—a practice that extended post marriage as well. Now, while my table is stationary, you can find traces of my work pretty much all over the house. If I am working on an embroidery piece, one can find some thread lost in my cat’s tail or a bunch of needles poked precariously in things so as to not harm anyone. Having moved to Bengaluru a year ago, I’ve also discovered some great cafes around my place that are buzzing with energy, where I can sit and draw for hours.
Having said that, the most important workspace is in an artist’s head. If there is a fire of creation burning in someone, the external workspace starts reflecting it—no matter the size of the space.
This space and the freedom of creation it represents is a part of me. While for an outsider, it might just be a wall with some drawings stuck on it and a small table laden with the chaos of colours and sketchbooks, it is a visual representation of my hands at work.
Since this is a home studio, I am here for more than eight hours a day. Working from home means there are no weekends off. It also means I can always glance at my work in progress from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep.
A while back, when I decided to jump into a creative career full time, I needed an anchor for my days. There was no to-do list and no deadlines, so I needed a practice that would enable me to sit at the table and churn out visual ideas day after day. That’s when I started my ‘meditation drawings’ whereby I would arrive at the studio, meditate for anywhere between five and 20 minutes and then draw out the forms I saw while my eyes were shut. This is a daily practice for me now and since I stick them up on the wall, I see both the wall and the practice growing day by day.
A box of white pens, a box of black pigma microns, at least 2-3 sketchbooks of various sizes and colour pencils, the book I am reading currently and my laptop.
I started with making detailed illustrations with a fine-tip black pen over white paper and moved to using black paper and white ink. Now I use all kinds of materials—from drawing on parchment paper to embroidering on linen and canvas. As the years have progressed, my excitement and curiosity in expanding the materials I work with is increasing.
Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.
Indumathy Sukanya is a Bengaluru-based writer and artist