The medium of life: Exploring human emotions with clay

  • Zofeen Maqsood, Hindustan Times, Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 18, 2015 14:09 IST

Clay is one of the most powerful mediums of expression, and one look at the work of artist and sculptor Anindita Dutta, who lives mostly in the US, confirms this. Dutta, who is currently in the city to showcase her new body of work entitled 'Everything Ends and Everything Matters,' attempts to harness the silent energy of the earth to dwell on conflict and on the emotional and intuitive moments of life.

A performance artist, she slathers herself, her surroundings and other subjects too to create living sculptures and works of art. The performance is recorded on video and in thought-provoking photographs. Here, the artist talks about her work that touches on mindscapes and mortality.

How, in your view, does clay symbolise complex human emotions and conflicts?
Clay for me is the most obvious element to express myriad emotions. It's the beginning and end of life - we are all made of matter and finally dissolve into matter. Clay found at different geographies depicts diversity. Yet, inherently, its nature remains universal. The malleability of clay allows me to work with my bare hands and create impressions that are symbolic of scars and indentations we acquire while battling the world. And just like in life, no two scars created on clay are alike.

Matter of moment: The artist visualizes a life where we edit our emotions and carry on a robotic existence where necessities such as eating, sleeping and defecation override sentiment. (Photo: Saumya Khandelwal/HT)

Your work predominantly features you as the primary actor and art object. Is this a natural progression or an obsession?
Everything from my sculptures to my performance is an expression of my energy. The making is a meditative experience, where I am constantly pushing my physical as well as emotional boundaries. Clay is a fragile medium that needs constant maintenance. Often, during the seven or eight hours that it takes to make something, I wet the clay every 15 minutes to ensure it doesn't dry up and change colour and texture. Emotionally I am always living and re-living the experiences that shape my artwork. After this emotional and physical connect it gets difficult for me to detach and I carry forward the message through performance. However, I do also engage other bodies and work with the same intensity with them too.

Your work is intuitive. Is it difficult to explain your ideas? How have your subjects reacted to you touching them so much as part of your process of creating these works?
I believe in transferring this mad energy that I feel for my work by discussing and encouraging both viewers and the people I am working with to explore the art. But yes, every place brings its special characteristics. Like, in Japan, it was tough to put the men at ease. I was using my hands to slather their bodies with clay and they were both shy and sensitive. This was unlike the male theatre artists I worked with in India, who were comfortable.

From L to R: The artist with a friend, who is the subject of her installation, Flight, which involves making a 'human sculpture'. The work involved five hours of rigorous positioning and precarious posing; this permanent clay sculpture symbolises the artist's constant attempt to break free from her boundaries. With her head trapped in a casket, she flails her arms as she attempts to reach out. (Photos: Saumya Khandelwal/HT)

Did you have a plan before you came to India, or did this work evolve here?
I did come with a concrete idea. But along the way, some other ideas came and some got edited. This is the normal procedure, as I largely depend on available material of the place. For instance, I was adamant about the colour of the mud that I wanted to use to paint the gallery wall. But I couldn't find the shade and texture anywhere. Then, I discovered it right in front of Sanskriti Kendra, where I was working. A farm house that used the same shade was being constructed nearby. They told me they got the material from Rajasthan and that it is very rare. After repeated requests, they agreed to give me the material and I used it to paint the gallery and create a permanent sculpture.

What: Everything Ends and Everything Matters by artist Anindita Dutta features a selection of videos, photographs and sculptures.
Where: Latitude 28, F 208, Lado Sarai.
When: April 10 till June 1.

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