Kunel Gaur, designer and founder of the independent creative agency, Animal has modelled a distinct, syncretic consciousness for his art. In Gaur’s eyes, everyday materials, including shopping labels and packaging, acquire potential to tell a bigger story. His pieces have bold undertones of irony, taking on subjects that range from climate change to commodification, and vary in medium from sculpture to collage. His body of work drafts, what Gaur calls, ‘folktales from future’. We speak to the artist about his practice and the place of design in building our shared tomorrow.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
Observation is the most important part of my process. I derive a lot out of things I see or experience and try to build on concepts and pieces of work from there. This is possibly why I end up using a lot of elements from the world around me, from borrowing functional design aesthetics typically used on products and machinery to utilising found printed material to make something that aligns with my creative sensibility.
Your work looks back at history in ways that are radically future-looking. How did you arrive at this intersection?
“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed,” is a quote by William Gibson that resonated with me. In part, both history and the future exist today in different parts of the world. With the aesthetic that I am trying to achieve, I want to bridge that gap in my own little way. History and future overlap on very few things. One of them is simplicity. The past was all about simple systems and straightforward, to-the-point communication amongst people, communities, and even nations. From my perspective, the future is going to be way simpler. We are gradually moving towards a more functional society, but with a more robust and efficient system in place – and hopefully equal and universal footing for all.
A lot of your work involves found materials. What is the challenge in looking for inspiration in the everyday?
There’s no challenge at all. I look forward to receiving a new package in mail or buying something new that may come with a shopping bag, or a tag. Handpicking a brochure at a grocery store, buying tickets to somewhere while traveling, not throwing away the bill, stashing away a business card – these are things I look forward to. And they go on to take beautiful forms when combined with other such.
What do you think makes good design?
My definition of good design isn’t any different from anyone else who cares about efficiency in systems that assist us as a society. It’s not just about good visual design. Implementing good design takes decades of continuous good governance, better infrastructure, best practices, education and policymaking, awareness around general hygiene, respect for others’ belief systems, accepting that all genders are equal, and can stretch all the way to infinity and beyond. I once said that good design, just for the sake of good design, is a luxury we don’t quite have yet. What I mean when I say that, is that it will take everyone in society to appreciate and understand the importance of good design for it to become something mainstream, something we can take for granted. Until then, it’s a niche that very few have access to.
What, according to you, goes into realising a society where we can afford this ‘luxury’?
It starts with a government that realises the importance of good systems design, that then leads to a cultural and collective sensibility allowing good visual design to not only thrive, but also be rooted in society and eventually become norm. It is hard work, and most developed nations took the time to put themselves to task, to make sure that generations to come will not treat good design as an add-on meant for the few who have an artistic taste, but rather as base-level hygiene that would, over time, become habit.
Your country-wide initiative, Indianama, brings a refreshing focus to contemporary Indian art. What can we expect from Indianama 2021?
We're still finalising the theme for Indianama 2021. And hope to uncover it soon.
Text Nikita Biswal