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. As the photographs may make clear, despite dramatic formal differences, each of these bodies of work is concerned with movement, with what Zeami Motokiyo, the great innovator of Noh drama, called “frozen dance.”
I hand-build with stretched 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. My work, which has been called “chthonic,” celebrates the earth from which it’s derived. I want my sculptures to invite viewers to walk around them, to interact with the revealed and the hidden.
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. My work isn’t prone to ornamentation; nevertheless, anagama-fired sculptures with natural-ash and gritty surfaces communicate signs of both decay and perseverance.
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.
My large-scale closed forms — rise from places where they were made. I realize that routinely, space is considered to be outside a closed form, its nesting place. But for me, the relationship is more integral. In my experience, rhythms of perception are shaped by active collaborations between the visible and the invisible, the subject and object. For these reasons, translation and traveling have been important to my art since new measures of stress, images, contexts, textures and even sounds educate my senses and suggest juxtapositions and structural possibilities. (It is when I encounter myself as a stranger that I am most open to possibility, most free from my habits). I want these large-scale sculptures to look as though they are unveiling themselves in situ, connected to the precise landscape in which they have been created. I want the seeing to originate in them.
— Ashwini Bhat
Ashwini Bhat 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. She studied ceramics with Ray Meeker at Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry.
Her work has been featured internationally in many galleries and exhibitions including, most recently, in American Jazz Museum (Kansas City,MO); NCECA (Kansas City, MO, 2016; Providence, RI, 2015 and Houston, USA, 2013); Newport Art Museum (Newport, RI, USA 2015); Indian Museum at FLICAM (Fuping, China 2013); the Sculpture Garden at Grand Hyatt (Chennai, India, 2011); India Art Summit (New Delhi, India, 2011); and Woodfire Tasmania (Australia, 2011). Her work has been featured in major international publications: Ceramic Art and Perception (USA), Studio Potter (USA), Art India (India), Ceramic Ireland (Ireland), Ceramic Monthly (USA), New Ceramics (Germany), Crafts Arts International (Australia), Logbook (Ireland), to name a few.
In 2012, Bhat built a studio and wood-firing kiln near Auroville, Pondicherry, India. 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 is an invited Guest Artist at StarWorks for the International Wood-fire Conference in North Carolina and at The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga, Japan.