Don’t rush to resign your old doors and windows to the scrap heap as Mumbaikar Pooja Bansal breathes new life into tired, time-worn pieces turning them into exquisite works of art
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE
When one door closes, another exciting opportunity opens. As old doors and windows get discarded and replaced with modern day wood, glass and metal, Mumbaikar Pooja Bansal has taken it upon herself to restore them with her art. “My signature work is on old doors and windows which come from old have lies, palaces and houses of Rajasthan and South India to Mumbai’s chawls., mills, slums etc,” says Bansal. “The purpose of my work is to restore them with my art and make them a part of the modern day environment again for patrons of art and old vintage wood.” While she picks old pieces for her artwork, Bansal commissions art on new wood – doors, windows, panels, furniture as well. A self-taught artist, she specialises in mixed media art, which she has evolved using a fusion of distress art and various mediums like glass, gold foils, metal and wood to create her own style varying from contemporary to ethnic. “The idea is to bring art outside of canvases to something more functional and real,” says Bansal, who left her corporate job to pursue her passion fulltime. “I was always inclined towards art, but I could only get time to paint over rare weekends with my corporate life,” she says. “I loved my corporate work and was always excited to take up new projects. But then there was kind of a realisation in 2017 that I wanted to explore my art before it was too late.” By then she had painted three windows and wanted to do more. “So out of the blue in late December 2017, I sent my paintings on windows to the Kala Ghoda Festival team for showcasing in 2018, and interestingly there was a very good response and that gave me confidence to leave work and start painting,” informs Bansal. She says painting on doors and windows came naturally to her… it was kind of an attraction to old architecture and their doors and windows, the fascination of the life people lived before the high rises that intrigued and fascinated her to use them as her art base. Growing up, it never occurred to Bansal that being an artist was something she could explore. “I did try for fashion designing and even cleared the All-India NIFT exam, but my family did not show interest in my pursuing a vocation after 12th grade. Coming from a family of highly educated doctors, lawyers, businessmen and corporate professionals, there was a charted path of higher studies for me. So, I just kept moving on that path with my creative side coming out only while making business plans, excel models and presentations,” she explains. Since there was a pre-defined path of MBA for her, she never challenged that and ended up studying Business Administration. “Restoration and repurposing happened because of my love for old things, old life, old era… my inquisitiveness of life in those days,” Bansal informs. She says an art degree would have given her a very different and a much deeper perspective of things, of art, of approaching elements and subjects, and of expressing herself. “I do miss it for the sake of helping me express myself better,” she says, adding, “But I feel without the degree I am open to exploring from scratch, learning every bit of it with maturity to understand and with every step challenging me to do more without inhibitions.” She started her venture by putting in her savings from the corporate profession, and converting one of the rooms in her house into a part-time studio. It had to be from scratch so she had to find her identity in a whole new world with no experience whatsoever from either family or friends. Did it ever occur to her as to how she was going to survive as an artist? “Oh yes!! But the thought did not come to me naturally since I was bubbling with excitement to explore my art. It came more from the art world – from other artists, buyers and sellers of art, from social media people, etc,” Bansal recalls. “The only one advise common from all was that there is immense competition, loads of artists, and few takers unless you are unique. Also, that artists have a life of struggle and no money. So, I may not be able to survive,” she adds. Bansal says her art journey was chaotic to start with. “Since it was a new field in my family, I had enough questions being raised on leaving a well-paying job. There were established artists and social media people who gave me lots of ideas to paint, which kind of clouded my mind. So, the first year was a mess with me doing things which others told me to do. Painting doors and windows took a back seat. In fact, I was dissuaded from painting them because according to them it was a form of art which had already been explored and done and d,” she remembers. Starting second year, however, she paused herself, went back to basics and started painting doors and windows again. “I focused on learning about the wood types, wood grains, meeting interior designers and architects, networking, tying with stores, and gauging interest. And it was only then that I started getting orders and a lot of queries,” she says. Another challenge was that she was using a very heavy base – hardwood, compared with light weight paper or canvas. But the conviction of restoration, the uniqueness of wood grains, along with the idea of sustainability and repurposing, everything helped her move ahead with it despite the mindset that she was in a wrong market like Mumbai with small houses and with a wrong product which was way too heavy. Talking of the process, Bansal explains she mostly works on old / vintage wood for her portfolio, while the interiors projects involve new wood. “For old pieces, my process involves sanding the pieces to a level where their old paints are retained in some places. I treat some pieces, especially raw barks for infestations like termites, cleaning, putting them to dry completely in the sun, and then starting to paint on them. In case of new wood, a large part of this process is skipped and I mostly just sand my pieces and start painting,” she informs. Bansal relies on dealers who source these doors and windows for her, and she has carpenters and painters on contract basis to help her with base work. “The research has so far been handled by me,” she says. What inspires her is that anything and everything can be made into art. “There are thousands of Indian and international artists who transform just anything into an art piece so beautifully. Their perspective, their approach, their colour palette, everything inspires me,” Bansal avers. “I am greatly influenced by the various Indian art forms, which are so intricate, depicting a story with every detail and with a rich cultural heritage. I would love to paint them in a way that can revive them in a different way,” she adds.