The two looming sculptural figures draw their inspiration from a convergence of Asian female divinity forms that have been of particular importance to me: the eye idols of Tell Brak and the Harappan civilization headdresses I saw as a child in India. At the base of my sculptures, a (phallic) image of the Shiva lingam makes a rhyme with the narrow yoni, the (labial) passage above it, bringing together male and female creativity. The passage also references the lamp-slits of old Japanese toros, or stone lanterns, honoring the particular geography where these sculptures came into being and melding all the influences into a reverential syncretic shrine.
I don’t make grand claims for my art, but my concerns are distinctively international. When I say international, I mean that my own identity is connected to identification with others. If I speak several languages, if I can call on resources in literature and dance, perhaps I can use this distinctive experience in my ceramic work to break down some of the borders that keep feeling, empathy, even beauty bound. I want my ceramic work to enter into the course of the lives of its viewers, emerging, receding, resurfacing, turning them away from habits of perception. I want my sculptures to invite viewers to walk around them, to interact with the revealed and the hidden.
Tactile Language. 2016
My journey as an artist has been a vigorous interrogation in search of form. My background is in literature, translation and classical dance. Now I gather shapes from the world around me, from travel, and from my journeys through books. I also look inside myself for forms and I translate those into bodies of clay.
I hand-build with coils or work through solid clay blocks, scooping clay to create negative spaces. Although trained in wheel throwing, I became a hand-builder by choice. The slowness allows me to internalize forms, intensifying the physical process. I’m passionate about form — mass, volume, material — and tectonics and movement, and my work celebrates the earth from which it’s derived. I find it poignant that even in transformation, as clay turns to stone, the process of making — a fingertip depression, scrape, or dent — remains legible.
Despite dramatic formal differences, each of my bodies of work (http://ashwinibhat.com/SelectedWorks/) is concerned with movement, with what Zeami Motokiyo, the great innovator of Noh drama, called “frozen dance.” I came from a career in dance to ceramic sculpture with an abiding sense of engagement as motion. My artistic work expresses my thinking less through what have become standard references to contemporary theory and various isms, than through my engagement with the materials themselves. I want my ceramic sculptures to accompany viewers beyond the familiar. I’m multidisciplinary at the core, and I’m drawn to environments that generate conversations and potential collaborations across disciplines and genres.
Note: The text above was written by the Artist. No modification was made by C.O.C.A.
Ashwini Bhat studied ceramics with Ray Meeker at Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry. She has a M.A degree in literature and studied classical dance for nearly thirteen years before working as a professional dancer in the Padmini Chettur Dance Company for four years. Her work has been featured internationally in many galleries and exhibitions including, most recently, in Lacoste/Kean Gallery, American Jazz Museum, Newport Art Museum, Indian Museum at FLICAM, China, India Art Summit and Woodfire Tasmania. In 2013, she was awarded a Howard Foundation Fellowship for Sculpture. Since 2015, she has lived in the USA where she makes sculptural ceramics and collaborates with artists in other genres. In 2017, Bhat was a Guest Artist at The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga, Japan.