Mudita Bhandari is one of the most prolific ceramic artists in India whose non-conventional work explores, through unusual forms and shapes, spatial interrelation between objects, the environment and the inner human world. Do not expect variations of pottery here, rather a number of hand-pinched, beaten to shape objects that are open to interpretation only on first glance, drawing one gradually into a near-architectural space that can easily be a structural figment of one’s inner imaginative space.

Mudita has already been to Gunehar once (for ShopArt ArtShop), her absolute and undistracted focus on the work process demonstrating the true ability of an artist to become one with the creative process. It is not hard to see that while working, Mudita is, both physically and mentally, delving into her own inner realms and creating structures. Her final works thus become elaborate journeys that she then offers others to view, and if they wish, to undertake.

— Frank Schlichtmann



True art comes from a place within, where it just flows and an artist becomes a mere medium in the magic of creation. For the last 17 years, ceramic artist Mudita Bhandari has used this creative flow to create one-of-a-kind work that defies traditional models of clay art,

After visiting a potter’s colony when she was a child, the Indore-based artist pursued a B.F.A .in ceramics from Kala Bhawan, Viswabharati, Santiniketan. Followed by an MA (Fine) in ceramic sculpture from The Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S.University, Vadodara. For nearly two decades since, Bhandari has been using clay as a medium of self-expression, playing with the notions of mind, time, space and anything that catches her fancy.

Sbcltr caught up with the artist before her exhibition at In the Woods, which takes place from June 3-11 in Gunehar, Himachal Pradesh.

Tell us about the set of terracotta sculptures you’re making for the exhibition and the inspirations behind the work.

Most of the times, my work is related to the phases in my life…the things I absorb, observe and how I respond to them. Somehow, this time, even before Frank came up with the idea of ‘In The Woods’, I had been in this beautiful space within myself where everything just floated and flowed oblivious to all the hustle bustle of everyday life. So most of my work that came about were spontaneous and reflective of that space within myself. The little house in the woods in the sculpture is titled ‘meanderings’ and is reflective of one being in a quiet, silent space and just floating around peacefully with everything else happening around…where the real walls are not as significant as the empty quiet spaces these walls are creating within, as if one is just wandering around in that empty space.

You have been associated with Gunehar and The 4tables project since last year when you participated in SA AS. What is it about the connection that has you coming back again and agreeing to do this?

I think it’s not so much just the place ‘Gunehar’ in the sense that it could be any other village with a similar feel. But what attracted me was the idea behind the project, which somehow seemed more wholesome in its approach. It was not only the artist expressing and putting out one’s work on display but also engaging the entire village in the process, which in turn made even the artist become a part of the village itself. Somehow, the format was so beautifully thought out that even if the artist was a stranger and coming from another world, they very organically became a part of the villager’s world and vice versa. And I would like to stress on the word ‘organically’ because it wasn’t a conscious effort. It just happened in the process of making the art-work. So in a way, it was art that brought the two – the urban and the rural – together very seamlessly.

How does it feel knowing that your work will find a place in the lap of Mother Nature, which is where the raw materials come from?

I enjoy when things happen organically, and how amazing it is that last year’s SA AS brought me closer to hearing my intuitive natural self and this year, I’m being invited to be a part of the nature itself.

How are you envisioning your works being incorporated into the forest?
I’m so curious to see how it all feels and looks when the works become a part of the space they are exhibited in rather than being the centre of attention with focussed lights etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how the sun plays with the forms creating different moods and shadows at different times as it moves from one direction to another, almost as if they were alive and living in time.

What is your life philosophy which comes through in your understanding of ceramics and clay?
Whenever I am teaching, I realize how when I was learning how to work on the wheel, I was so conscious of getting it right that it somehow never worked. And yet, when one continued to work with it, at some point one stops thinking and just enjoys it and goes with the flow and it all falls in place as if the two are working together to create something. So many times, with our conscious mind, we try to control things and end up struggling with it. But when something flows naturally, it automatically syncs…

As an artist, what is your process of immersing yourself into the work and producing what you visualise? Is there a physical/mental space that gets you into the right zone?

I don’t think I’ve ever sat and thought ‘OK, now I want to meditate’. It has always come naturally and it doesn’t depended on where I am. It’s just a space within that one accesses, whether it’s while working or just while sitting and gazing.
As for my process of working, I guess at some point one does access the mind as one has to figure out the structural, and technical aspects of it but the visualisation from where it all starts is mostly intuitive. That intuition probably comes from the subconscious feelings that one observes within oneself. But it’s very difficult to answer this…Right now, when I’m trying to tell you how it works, I’m only using my head and trying to figure out exactly how it works but that’s not how it is in reality. It’s pretty fluid depending on where I am in life, how am feeling…There are times when I don’t feel like making anything at all and just being… and then there are times when I don’t feel like stopping at all!

What is your perspective on the contemporary arts in India? Where are we, and where do we go from here?

I love the way things are happening right now and it’s all growing and moving the way everything else does. The formats that already exist at one point were a dream some forty years ago. They opened the gates and now, those same formats are being questioned and there are various activities happening to break what has become stereotyped. Isn’t this how growth happens? As long as things keep changing and moving, it’s all very exciting. The minute things get stagnant, there will be no fun in creating.

A less serious question. What do you associate the woods with?

Meandering…That’s the only word that comes to me right now!

After ITW, what else do you have lined up for 2017?
There is a show that Rahul Kumar is curating for Art and Aesthetics Gallery called Little Infinity. It’s all about scaling things down as opposed to making an impact with something large. All the works in this show, including mine, will not be larger than 7 inches. It’s lovely working with a smaller scale, which is so much more intimate and tangible. It engages the maker as well as the viewer so minutely as well as sensitively.