Exploring Landscapes in Clay with Rekha Goyal

There is a long history of ceramic art across the world. It keeps evolving as it is reimagined, moulded and transformed by artists. Someday, it takes the shape of a bird, suspended in animation. On others, the stunning visions, shaped by ceramic artist Rekha Goyal, take the form of a cosmic ocean, a tree, the mountain, even the multiverse. Her work, intertwined and inspired by nature, takes the shape of murals, installations, art tiles and more. We speak to her about her journey, her community space The Pottery Lab and more.

What got you interested in pottery? Beautiful forms, textures and colours in everyday life got me interested in ceramic art and pottery. My mother had an eclectic and unusual collection of tableware, including a handcrafted water filter that she picked up on a road trip in Columbia. I loved the attractive simplicity of all these objects.

I first experienced pottery at age 12, in an after-school activity. What I enjoyed the most then, is something that I enjoy even today – visually simple, captivating forms of ceramics, the science of the material integrated with its art and the earthiness of working with the material.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? We see lot of references to nature…In art school, we were trained to be observant. Being observant has made me introspective.

All my art installations draw inspiration from my everyday emotions and the world around me. The hardest or most emotional days could be the best moments to imagine, to create.

How has your work changed over the years? Does it reflect the growth in your personal life? When I started my ceramic art practice 23 years ago, I did a lot of functional pottery. Gradually the murals and installations started dominating my practice. The primary focus of my practice right now is site-specific art, and a body of ceramic art that’s miniature in scale, something for everybody who would like a bit of art in their lives.

My art is who I am and how I live.

Photo courtesy: Rekha Goyal

You seem to favour the kulhad. Any story there? A personal bond? My ceramic art practice has a specific focus on murals and installations. The kulhad is something I work on, on my day off or during my down time. I enjoy the change of scale and function.

I love the sensual, Indian feminine form of the kulhad – complete in itself but open enough to take on many avatars. I approach this classic form with my contemporary sensibilities and I love how the traditional form of the kulhad embraces it.

You have been practicing for many years now, how do you stay motivated? Do you dabble in a different art form to seek inspiration or to visualize a subject differently? A typical day at the studio is filled with such a variety of thoughts, emotions, actions that there is never a slow moment. Each day at the studio is its own story, how can one not be motivated?

What does a day/week look like for you? Is there a lot of discipline involved? I’m wearing different hats in my week – artist, visualiser, maker, manager, teacher. It would be impossible to manage the fine balancing act between these roles without being organised.

There are many parts that make up an art practice – understanding your materials and equipment, research for a new concept, developing it through sketches and prototypes, ceramic tests, the physical creation of the work, challenges of installation on site. Ensuring that all of this comes together seamlessly takes practice, experience and discipline.

What prompted you to start the Pottery Lab? Art was a significant part of my growing up years. As a community it can make us live more mindfully and consciously with self-awareness. The Pottery Lab was set up with this thought in mind – to create a safe space that makes the arts accessible to everybody.

What is more challenging for you as an artist – to find a way to deliver the client’s brief or sculpting and designing personal projects? What is more fulfilling? The challenge lies in following the process and being patient. Whether a site-specific art or a personal project, both are personal expressions. One has to go inward to create the art.

Pottery is finding more takers. There are people who are learning it to relax, learn a new skill or to craft their own products. What’s your advice to them? My suggestion is to allow yourself time to understand the medium and find your voice. That’s when the work will be honest and honest work I believe, is the only true work.

Rekha runs regular workshops at her community space The Pottery Lab in Bandra. Her latest work, Building Blocks (pictured on top), was designed as a visual metaphor for the Mahindra museum. When not working with clay, Rekha likes to learn new art forms, to sketch, experiment with food, cook, travel and enjoy a good swim in the evening. You can check out her art on her website.

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