Ceramicist Anjani Khanna is the first recipient of the Artist in Residence Exchange program with Indian multi-arts organisation Art Ichol. During her residency, she created imagined figurative sculptures, each with their own story. Coming to the end of her four week residency, Anjani sat down to chat with us about her works and her time in Fremantle.
What’s your first memory of art? How did art become a part of your life?
As a young child, I watched a village potter throw a pot on a hand-turned village potter’s wheel in India, and I even tried my hand at it with his guidance. This was my first real encounter with clay. From there followed apprenticeships at potters studios in Bombay, Pondicherry and the UK. I haven’t received a university education in ceramics or fine art, I have a Degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Ceramics in the early days was both a creative pursuit and a life choice, however, slowly I suppose it has become a large part of who I am.
How would you describe your practise?
I make figurative sculpture hybrid forms, which are primarily wood fired. Growing up and living in India one learns to live, adapt and accept contradictions; and explore multiple identities and fluid world views. My work negotiates these ideas and variously explores the personal, the political and the philosophical.
What have you been working on while in residence?
While in residence I have had an opportunity to explore materials not available to me in India. I work with paper clay in India but it’s not actually readily available so I usually make my own. At FAC, I’ve been able to work with earthenware and porcelain paper clay, which has been exciting. I started off working at a modest scale but the work has since grown in scale and ambition. Firing in an electric kiln is also a novel and far more relaxing experience. My studio is in a rural community where we have intermittent access to electricity so I fire mostly with wood and gas.
Conceptually, I’ve just begun to explore ideas related to the colonial experience in India and other parts of the world. In India, colonialism did not involve settlement and I think the post-colonial experience appears different. As it happens this year I have had opportunities to visit the US, the UK and Australia providing a wide canvas of experience within twelve months!
Where is your favourite place to create art and why?
Any place where I have the facilities and the opportunity to explore ideas, I do enjoy interaction with other artists, which I find somewhat lacking in my own studio in India. This is the reason I enjoy residency opportunities.
FAC has a reputation for being the most haunted place in the southern hemisphere. Have you had any unsettling moments while in residence?
No! I think the ceramics studio is probably a more benign space, as compared to the main building. The Moore’s Building has its moments. Especially coming home late in the evening when the cafe is closed!
Other than FAC of course, what’s your favourite gallery?
I loved In Cahoots (FAC’s latest exhibition). Fantastic powerful stuff! I recently had work in the British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke on Trent, UK. The exhibition is mounted at the Spode China Halls – the remains of an old china factory – a most fantastic space.
We are involved in launching the first Indian Ceramics Triennale at the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, India. That is a superb gallery space in India and we are delighted to be able to host the first iteration Breaking Ground in August 2018.
The FAC-Art Ichol Artist Exchange is a reciprocal residency program between Fremantle Arts Centre and Indian multi-arts organisation Art Ichol.