PHOTOS BY Abdi Prilaksono and Satria
Born and raised in New Delhi, Arti Gidwani has delved in ceramic making since 18 years. She first studied ceramics in Singapore for two years before experimenting with various techniques, which include the traditional methods of clay molding in India to Indonesian pottery traditions. The Indian potter is now working using free hand sculpting method, using mid-fired stoneware and terra cotta clay bodies while exploring glazes and their interaction with clay bodies.
“THE WORLD IS FACELESS”
Gidwani has always been interested in exploring human forms. ‘Inadvertent Facelessness’ is an ode of human limitation to create meanings with people we encounter with. Gidwani observes that when we want to remember people who we interact with, showing more interest in the interaction will help our brain to form strong memory for us to recall. “The world is faceless,” she says. “We have limited memories and it is only with those whom we interact all the time, we remember them the most.” Curator Deborah Iskandar said that Arti’s artworks convey the unfortunate truth of humanity. She said that in many research studies, in a world of seven billion faces, the average person cannot recognize more than a few hundred without prompting. Another issue that arises is the presence of social media and the overload of images in our news feed that results in a phenomenon of creating little to no interaction while expanding acquaintances.
MULTIPLE LAYERED PROCESS
Gidwani’s creative process usually begins by choosing the right clay to mold, allowing her to envision the full proportions, but other times she would also make drawings of the pieces she wanted to work in. Once she has found the form, Gidwani begins to think of the color in which glazes are chosen and starts her work on the sculpture. The next step is to let the piece dry completely before it can be fired in the kiln for its first firing — the bisque firing. Once it is done, the piece is ready for colour, which includes single to multiple glazes. “It depends on the intricacies of the work,” she says,”after glazes go on the piece I spray or brush it and send the piece to the kiln for 1200 degrees Celcius.” However, for Gidwani, the key element in creating a good piece of pottery is balancing all the elements of form, shape, lines color and texture and the artist’s thought process. She said that her cardinal rule is to not overwork an art piece, but rather to let it retain its freshness and airy quality.
“Functional pottery bores me,” Gidwani admits that she prefers asymmetry. The potter said that experimenting with different shapes and forms gives her freedom to tell her story and allows her to incorporate other mediums like iron, wood, and silver. Having a clear design in mind is her key to creating the right specifications required especially due to its inflexibility and delicate nature. Gidwani’s inspirations usually come from the people around her and the natural beauty of the world. As she takes notes on her observations, her thought process results in her vision of the world that she transfers into sculptures. “Clay provides the freedom to create forms that have fluidity and expression,” she says. “It is natural because it is a part of our environment and makes me feel one with nature.”
Siobhan King is a graduate of Fine Arts with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Art and Design, which led her to a teaching career across the globe including UK, Zimbabwe, China, the States and Belgium. King’s first encounter with art was in the 70’s in Britain when she attended creative workshops and was asked to create animated films using her parent’s 8mm-cameras. However, her first encounter with paint was when she was asked to paint an eye at the age of nine. “That little painted eye changed the way I saw life, the world, and myself.”
“MAN’S BRIEF MOMENT UNDER THE SUN”
Siobhan King’s observation from her encounters with Indonesia’s archipelago started when she visited several places in Kalimantan, Flores, Java, and Maluku. The process was transferred to canvas as she returned to her studio in Jakarta mainly with oil painting technique, particularly through the process of layering of colours that allows the paintings to evolve during the process. King explained that her works aim to explore the relationship between mankind and nature and that of imagined faces and places. “Each country I lived in changed my perspective, but I am always interested in landscape, before moving to people or knowing the people of the country. Particularly Indonesia, it has incredibly powerful landscapes and that has really inspired me the most,” she says. Curator Deborah Iskandar explains that through ‘Chasing Dragons’, King exhibited a call to act for Indonesians to protect the archipelago’s ecosystem. The series of works took the metaphorical “dragons” as a man’s endless quest to conquer nature. King personally put it, “I would say it as ‘man’s brief moment under the sun’ which means we will have this landscape but not forever.”
DRAWING INSPIRATIONS AND OVERCOMING CREATIVE BLOCKS
As a wife of an ambassador, Siobhan King’s nomadic lifestyle influences her work. “It can be a simple change of workspace that can have an impact on the scale or subject matter,” she says, “for example, from windowless to light-filled [room].” Besides the places she visited, the painter also draws inspiration from North European artists, such as Belgium’s Michaël Borremans and Luc Tuymans or Germany’s Neo Rauch. Although it looks that having a nomadic lifestyle could be her challenge in transferring ideas, King admits that she had overcome her creative blocks. The English painter said that her successful key is to be disciplined and pushing herself to work every day, if possible. Another essential top for growth is to accept constructive criticism. “Art needs to be viewed and reviewed. It is essential to help an artist develop,” she says.