Tuesday, August 19, 2014

potter files - learning the language of clay

Columbia Art Center (CAC), where I have been volunteering for the last ten months, offers a number of ceramics classes. These classes range from beginner to advanced levels, and are taught by experienced ceramic artists. The ceramics studio is huge. It has a line of potter's wheels, a glazing room, kilns - the works (see images below). Since ceramics has always held my attention, I decided to take the introduction to wheel throwing class.

My teacher for this class is Donna Lansman. I have enjoyed learning a new skill with Donna, who is a fun person to work with and a teacher with immense patience. For the last six weeks she has been teaching my class the language of clay. We have learned to wedge, center, pull and collar, and make a host of things. I have made bowls and cylinders, vases, sealed jars and other objects.

Working on the wheel is fun. To watch the block of clay emerge as a form is mesmerising. Nothing short of magical. But learning to work with clay has also meant that many pieces have fallen apart along the way. Sometimes I went in too deep, sometimes uneven pressure while pulling up the clay created thin spots. At times the clay was not centered, which made the piece lopsided and unstable. I am sure that with time, patience and lots of practice the pots and bowls I make will be centered, strong and even.

For now here are a few bowls and pots I made. Soon these pieces will be glazed. Then they will be off to the kiln for firing. Stay tuned for the final output.

potter's wheels and a ceramic artist at work

glaze swatches

Friday, August 15, 2014

the sound of somewhere

Continuing with the new series, here is a piece called 'the sound of somewhere'. The medium is acrylics and water-soluble graphite on paper and the size is 18x24 inches.

the sound of somewhere, mixed media on paper, 18x24",  ©2013 priya vadhyar

Sunday, August 10, 2014

new work - ((mountain-crow-echo))

Starting this month I will share the work I've been doing for the past one year. This one is called ((mountain-crow-echo)). The size is 18x24" and the medium is ink on paper.

((mountain-crow-echo)), ink on paper, 18x24", ©2013 priya vadhyar

Friday, April 11, 2014

exhibition: visions of hope

Hello all! I am participating in an exhibition at Columbia Art Center. 'Visions of Hope', as the show is called, celebrates the 100th birthday of James Rouse, the urban planner and philanthropist who was responsible for the creation of Columbia as a planned community. (You can read more about James Rouse here. Incidentally, he is also the maternal grandfather of actor Edward Norton.) 

My entry in the group show is an acrylic painting on canvas. The title of the piece is 'Of the Same Bliss'. 
The reception for the show is today between 6 and 8pm.

'of the same bliss', acrylic on canvas, 30x40", ©2014 priya vadhyar

Thursday, February 6, 2014

18th century Chinese artist on life-force and painting

I've been reading The Grove Book of Art Writing edited by Martin Gayford and Karen Wright. It is an anthology of writings by artists, critics, writers and philosophers on topics related to the creative process, viewing art, nature and inspiration and the artist. In it I came across a gem, a text by an 18th century artist from China, Shen Tsung-ch'ien. In this short piece he talks about life-force and the act of painting. There is a lot to take from it. So here goes..

All matter is formed of accumulated force. Thus even the undulations of the hilltops and every rock and tree are possessed by a life-force inherent in them. They are multifarious, yet orderly, perhaps they exist in small numbers, but they are never dried and dead. Each has its own shape, and together they have a related unity. All things differ in shape and manner, yet all are governed by this life-force and possess the beauty of life. This is what we call shih, force of movement. When people, speaking of the six techniques [the venerable principles of Chinese art, laid down in the fifth century AD], place first the 'lifelike tone and atmosphere', they mean exactly this. When we speak of the force of the brush (pi-shih), we mean that the life-movement of the brush brings out the body posture of the different objects. Only so can the work be called a painting. When one prepares to put ink on paper, one should feel in one's wrist a power like the universe creating life. It flows out from one generously and freely, without obstruction and without deliberation. One puts a dot here and a 
dash there and the objects take form; anything is possible for one to pick up and carry along. This is the creative moment when hand and mind and brush and ink co-operate. As Wen Cheng-ming says, seize it, capture it at once before it vanishes, for speed is essential to catch that force of movement. ... The forms of hills and forests come from the life-force (sheng-ch'i) of the universe, and the ink marks and tracings of the brush come the spiritual force of the artist's mind and hand. So where the life-force is, the force of movement is also. The life-force makes the force of movement, and the force of movement carries the life-movement. The force of movement (shih) can be seen, but the life-force (chi'i) cannot. Therefore it is necessary to have the force of movement to bring out the life of things. When life-force circulates, the force of movement goes in harmony with it. So this life-force and force of movement come from the same source. Let it pour out and it will flow naturally and in graceful movements. There is no need to work carefully and yet it all fits in beautifully. Is it life-force? Or is it force of movement? Just pour it out. The insight of a moment may be thus committed to eternity, and the artist need not be ashamed of his work. Such pleasures of creation cannot be felt by an artist who slowly builds up his structures.

The moment of inspiration comes by itself, and brushes away all doubts and hesitancies. Like an arrow shooting out from the bowstring, it cannot be stopped; it is unfathomable, like rumbling thunder coming from the earth. One has no idea where it comes from, when it starts, nor wither it goes. It comes just at the exact moment, not a second sooner or later. When this inspiration comes at the moment of painting, a true masterpiece is born. It cannot be repeated by doubled effort, it simply eludes it. For the effort to recapture that moment is born of man (artificial), not of heaven (inspired). Only those possessed of the natural expansive spirit have more of such moments; they can shut out the mental effort and let themselves go soaring in freedom to wherever the spirit may carry them. ...
- Shen Tsung-ch'ien, fl. 1781