KOCHI:Till the 13th century, chairs were unheard of in India. Only kings and princes sat on golden elevated thrones as a show of power and influence. It was only with the arrival of Vasco Da Gama at Malabar in 1498, that chairs, which were a Western influence, found its way into India.
Exploring this theme is internationally-known interior designer-cum-artist Gunjan Gupta. In her Kochi Biennale collateral project, ‘Kissa Kursi Kha: A Chairy Tale’, at the Heritage Arts shop in Mattanchery, she explores the aesthetics and contemporary styles of the chair.
In the main room one’s attention is caught by the ‘Khilone Wala Bicycle Throne’, one among the series in the Bicycle Throne, where the artist has designed the chair using toys and powder-coated steel ball toys, with bicycle seats.
The ‘Bartan Wala Bicycle Throne’ is made of vessels bought and borrowed from several markets and homes in India. “Chairs came to India through Westerners. Even today, we are very influenced by the West and have modeled their furniture to suit our taste and design,” says Gunjan. Most of the chairs and thrones have been made using recycled seats, jute sacks and other scrap items. “My designs advocate the importance of our Indian roots and the value of the hand-made, instead of the industrialised processes found in other countries. My quest for an Indian identity is relentless. This is reflected in the elements used to design the Bicycle Throne series, where I have created chairs using spare parts and discarded items from everyday Indian life,” says Gunjan.
The dining throne, wrapped in pure silver sheets and 24 carat gold leaf, is a reminder of the glory days of the throne. Designed in 2006, this was Gunjan’s first work in the chair series.
There are other installations, too. For example, the Bori Sofa, which playfully subverts the phrase, ‘Couch Potato’, and has been made using jute sacks stuffed with foam that are deceptively comfortable. The staple Indian mattress is rolled into The Gadda Chair and juxtaposed with a colonial cane chair for The Floating Gadda Chair, while the comfort of a mundane laundry sack becomes the backrest in The Potli Chair and the much-forgotten bolster cushion takes centre stage in The Masnad Chair.