Shirley Bhatnagar: JKK
Through her work displayed at JKK's exhibition, Shirley illustrates her ideas about the statements made by leaders the world over, which are nothing but broken promises
Shirley Bhatnagar has been a ceramic artist for many years. At the JKK (Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur) exhibition 'Breaking Ground' there is a melange of stoneware, porcelain and earthenware, cups and objects like a treasure trove entitled 'The Broken Promised 2018'. Through her work — a table laid out for tea with defunct pot handles, forks and spoons with spikes that are of no use to anyone — she illustrates her ideas about the statements made by leaders the world over which are nothing but broken promises. It is when the politics and mockery hit you that you smile in amusement.
Talking about her work Shirley says: "I use a wide variety of glazes, some are commercial and stain based some are made and ground at the studio. Typically I never make more than 500 GM's of any glaze so most application is by hand in a painterly fashion. I also use stains, finely ground for direct application. When I need an even coat I spray it on."
For the works at Ceramic Triennale, Shirley used glazes at 1100 and 1250 Celsius in combination as she needed a brighter palette rather than subdued and sombre. She also used gold and platinum final firings to add that extra glitter. What entices is the fact that nothing is over, it's like a cabinet of curiosities placed on a table.
Shirley fires everything in a small gas kiln. She says the medium the materials and the message are a complex corollary of sorts as the 'Broken Promised' was created out of a lot of studies and looking at political lampooning , she did not want to be direct and target a particular politician or a party and wanted to keep it simple, however it took a while to decide which broken promises to illustrate.
"I was not aiming for impact so much but rather decoding statements as a 3-dimensional artwork," explains Shirley. "Therefore the work is not monumental or too pretty, it's more like a graphic novel or a sketch, and as a viewer, you need to engage with the text to make sense of what's going and even then only those with political interest or some leaning towards the topic will get the message."
On the table she creates a conversation of sheer ingenuity with six quirky place settings, illustrating promises broken but chosen on absurdity, her favourites are making one place like the other: So she takes conversation one-liners spoken by politicians as her catalyst.
We will make Amethi like Singapore/ Delhi like London/Kashi like Kyoto/South of Italy like Florida/ roads of Bihar to be like Hema Malini's cheeks!!!
The wit and the irony both become the handmaidens of the entire commentary. Of course, it is the tall mug like creations that are the best. And why not in the year 2011 Shirley had created a historic show as an ode to two French films of the French New Wave- 400 Blows and Breathless made in 1959-1960 respectively.
The largest work literally a 'hanging color palette' based on A Bout de Souffle composed of over a 100 ceramic pieces on which one side were images printed from the movie and the flip side a myriad of colorful glazes. Many fragments came together to create a story which was for its time applauded for being bold, choppy and fast moving.
Now 7 years hence at the JKK, her work again defines her very being and her sensibility, shorn of decorative artifice but built up in glazes, colours and forms that attract and keep you riveted as they invite responses that flit back and forth like a pendulum.