Feature by Sarmistha Maiti
“Dreams are many the times, culprit of obsessions.
A realm of belief, which is neither true nor false.
Neither fantasy nor reality.
A world of contrasts.
Architectural forms create of a new type of space. A place.
A place created to fit in all of one’s desires, emotions and longings.
…Freedom is spontaneous. So is dreaming…”
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
“In Gujarat, a Gujarati girl in an art school is not taken seriously, even if she is from Jyoti Bhatt’s family…” smiled Falguni Bhatt sitting in her 2,500 square feet studio named ‘Aorang’ in the heart of Kolkata near Elgin road – a space you would just fall in love with and also start shedding off your some shades of creativity using the ceramic clay, colors, brushes, gas kilns, etc. etc…
It was a great couple of hours’ discussion with Falguni in her studio with chai, dhokla and kachauri on one July afternoon and she laid before me a blueprint of her forthcoming plans with ceramic sculptures and artworks and narrated her journey till date. Of course the establishment of Aorang Studio was the high point of our discussion and how this very soft spoken young energetic sculptor turned this almost abandoned space, not just into a creative space, but has dedicated herself since half a decade to give ceramic a stature of serious art and not craft in this city. And this was not the beginning. After completing her art degrees from Baroda, she had established a same kind of studio over there as well and worked there for another half a decade. It was only after her marriage; she shifted to Kolkata and set anew with much bigger plans and hope.
THE CAREER LADDER
Falguni’s journey in the art world began in 1992 when she joined the BFA course in Sculpture in MS University, Baroda. She also completed her MFA in 1999 from the same university. Faluguni inherited her father’s drawing skills who is an amateur painter. Jyoti Bhatt happened to be her father’s cousin (her uncle) and also her mentor in MSU. But she didn’t opt for either of their chosen paths but made a way for herself.
She got interested in ceramics towards end of her graduation course. During a visit to Bhopal, she stumbled on ceramics in large scale and she also met G. Reghu, an eminent exponent of ceramics art. This was the turning point in Falguni’s career. Clay intrigued her so much that in her post-graduation years she decided to work with this material to the optimum and played with architectural space in devising the subject of her works. And since then, she has remained dedicated to ceramics and pushed the limits to explore new territories in sculpting.
In the year 2000, she did her first solo exhibition at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture in Kolkata. In 2004, she did two solo shows in Mumbai, one in Hacienda Art Gallery and the other in the Jehangir Art Gallery, both in Mumbai. In 2005, she did her first solo show, outside India, at Amigos del Nepal. Some of the important curatorial shows where Falguni’s ceramic art and sculpture have been selected are The Umbilical Cord at Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi, Celebration of Moods & Emotions, a ceramic show at Sanskriti Art Gallery, Kolkata (2011), Unique Show of Boxes & Bookends” at the Strand Art Room, Mumbai, From the Center at Gallery Art & Soul, Mumbai (2010), Maati at India Habitat Center, Delhi (2009), In Depth at Gallery Art & Soul (2008) and Art Forms & Forms of Art…Beyond Definition” at Red Earth Art Gallery (2007).
Falguni has participated in several exhibitions and workshops in the last few years. Falguni was the recipient of the Junior Fellowship Award from Ministry of Culture, at New Delhi (2007-09), Residency Scholarship at Barcelona, Spain (2005) and National Scholarship from Ministry of Culture, New Delhi (1998-99).
THE WORK STYLE
Falguni has largely experimented with space and time in her ceramics sculptures. There’s a strong surreal treatment in her works where she has often attempted to represent freedom where everything seems to be perfect to create a certain kind of ideal situation. But in reality such perfections don’t happen. “Making space into a place, where everything is synchronized to perfection and in tune with the way things should be but probably never are…Creating a time zone where one looses perception of reality to create a world of fantasy, a realm of the mixture of both holding on and letting go,” is how Falguni places her thematic treatment in her works to be. She visualises the sculptures in a miniature scale first and does the layout and finally transforms it into a bigger scale, sometimes through multiplication of the same object which she has recently done for the “Floating Staircase series”.
Falguni delves into the constant conflict of the human mind that one likes to see a thing as well as achieve it in a particular way, but in reality often the vice versa takes place. And life goes in a tangential direction.
THE PERSONAL TAKE
Aorang Studio came into existence from 2009. After Falguni shifted to Kolkata in 2008, she got this space which was a part of her in-law’s property and she decided it to renovate into a lively studio. As Falguni says, “That time the space was just covered by tin shade. It took around six months to convert it the space into a studio. It started as full workshop area cum personal studio in 2009. In the initial period, I spent much of my time experimenting on my works. But gradually I started finding out options for a better usage of the space. And this is how ceramic and sculpture workshops began here on a regular basis. And I didn’t want to limit it only among artists. So, most of my workshops remain open for anybody, who wishes to join it. One of my biggest ventures is doing workshops with children and I find it really fascinating.”
Falguni conducts workshops and weekly class for children in her studio. She also conducts workshops in other studio spaces. Participants in her workshop get a hands-on experience and get to discuss about the techniques and possibilities of the medium.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The Aorang Studio is well-equipped with every amenity that a ceramic and sculpture studio should have, apart from the huge space. There are two gas kilns – a big one which fires till 1,300 degree temperature and the other with a capability of firing till 1,100 degree. With Falguni is also planning for artists’ residency programme at her studio which can provide artists to stay and work. She also hopes to collaborate with senior artists from different streams, art critics and art historians across the globe to be an integral part of the residency programme.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
This is of course a future plan of Falguni and still kept on hold to show it colours. But her invariable experiments in her own execution techniques, skill and subjects do claim a round of applause where she has leaped the stature of ceramics from cups and saucers and vases to hanging installations – an approach to look at life and art with a difference!