(re)connecting emotions 58”/36”/2” stoneware 2021
Ceramic Artist, Sarban Chowdhury tells us about his fascination with art and the narratives he creates to understand life around him.
Let’s start from the beginning – when did your interest in the arts begin?
Since childhood, I was fascinated by art. I used to spend most of my time drawing and painting on everything around me, like doors, walls, cupboards, et cetera. However, having been born in a lower middle class family and raised in a small town on the outskirts of Kolkata, I was not encouraged to consider art as a career option. Although, I was always curious to know more about artists and how they thrive in the real world. Somewhere deep down, I knew that I was passionate about pursuing visual art. So, while I was preparing for my medical entrance exam, destiny had something else in store for me.
What inspires your artistry?
Everything I observe and experience, somehow seeps into my subconscious mind and eventually reflects in my work. I prefer to introspect, explore and analyse my own self, which gives me an understanding of the human mind — its emotions, desires and complications. I read a lot about a topic I find interesting and collect photographs from random sources. This helps me develop my imagery and text, the two most significant features of my work. Moreover, ceramic as a material has its own charm and technical limitations. It determines my form selection and execution to some extent.
You explore various mediums — stoneware, terracotta, porcelain, wood, iron, et cetera. How does it all come together? Possible to deconstruct your method?
I would like to call myself a ceramic artist because I am academically trained in it. I understand this medium much better than any other medium. Ceramic is a very versatile material, with endless opportunities for exploration and experimentation. I primarily work with stoneware and porcelain. The other mediums only act as additions to the ceramic forms, to glorify their appeal or justify certain aspects.
The process of working with ceramic is very technical and requires scientific understanding, along with artistic abilities. It begins with raw materials like feldspar, quartz, fire clay, et cetera, that are used to prepare the clay. This is followed by the techniques such as wheel throwing, casting and various hand-building techniques. Once the pieces are complete, they are dried and heated in a kiln at a low temperature, popularly known as bisque firing. Then they are coated with glazes and placed at a higher temperature inside a kiln. This melts the glazes and vitrifies the clay body. This is the usual process of creating a ceramic body, but innumerable experiments are conducted by me at different stages. Also, certain things are beyond human control while working with ceramic. I have faced many unexpected outcomes that have been disastrous at times. The material is very challenging and has taught me some tough lessons about life.
You say ‘I strive to create an object I’ve never quite seen before’ — how does that work? Is it entirely your imagination or you take fragments from life and recreate your version?
I see my work as a diary. It’s a place for me to write down my feelings. When I say that I strive to create an object I have never quite seen before, it does not just define the object with solid mass, but also the emotions in the form of art. This is imaginative to some extent, but mostly recreated using the feelings and vibes I absorb from my surroundings.
Lastly, as an artist, what stories do you like to tell?
In times plagued by religious and cultural bigotry, humanitarian crises and economic meltdown, I want to create a dialogue rooted in the global context – a dialogue that aims to work with the structures of the mind, and is based on the spirit of compassion, enrichment, equality and understanding. Living with social constraints can be restrictive and tiring, but they push me towards a deeper understanding and humility. My works are like narratives that define this realisation and understanding.
Text Jia Khanna