Clay captures shock, love in Ajanta caves

An Australian ceramic artist, who celebrates the human form and its movement, presents a modern interpretation of Ajanta Cave drawings.

Published: 02nd March 2017 04:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd March 2017 04:53 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Feyona van Stom, a renowned Australian sculptor and ceramic artist, will be showcasing hand-built ceramic pieces that portray the Ajanta Cave drawings and carvings in a modern setting.       

She will present 25 sculptures — 15 will be torsos and 10 will be heads. Feyona says, “Gomathi Suresh, founder and director of Gallery Manora, told me perhaps two years ago about the Ajanta Caves she had visited. The sculptures and murals had inspired her. She has seen my work over the years and thought that I could be the one who can come up with sculptures that would suggest a link to these drawings.” 

Ceramic artworks of Feyona van Stom

The 65-year-old artist adds, “I found a book that documented works on the walls. It had photographs taken by Benoy K Behl in the 1990s using long exposures and only natural light, which actually allowed the depth of colour to penetrate the darkness without bringing in artificial light. I read this book through thoroughly - and allowed it in turn to penetrate my subconscious.” 

Women in the Paintings

She has never been to Ajanta Caves. “My main research was through the book. In one painting that is less damaged, there is the scene of a queen who learns that her husband has decided to leave the palace and part from her, as he renounces his worldly life.

Three of her palace maids are with her and their expressions are shock, anger, upset and love for their queen. In another scene, there is a maid carrying a plate of food on a platter above her shoulder and a man behind her removes something from her platter.

She is dressed in an ikat skirt with curls around her shoulders, and pearls around her neck, she is very shapely and her eyes are very soft. She has a gentle expression on her face. I chose this girl for one of the sculptures.”

Feyona’s sculptures are not a direct copy of the original images, she says adding that they are more about her feelings about them and her reaction to them, “the drama, the emotions, the femininity of the followers”. “The stories or jakatas explained in the book by eminent scholars and archaeologists brought the images to life for me,” says the artist.  The paintings have deteriorated over time, but her real challenge was to try to portray the feelings of the time, in a modern way.  

An ardent art lover, she loves to draw, paint and sculpt the human body. Her favourite medium is clay. She says, “You can form it from within and from outside. There is an opportunity to change it when still damp, smooth it, rough it, put in detail, even the glazes are made from natural-earth materials.” 

Capturing Movement

She likes to play with colours and abstract paintings, and experiments her work with changing ideas. Her clay bodies are always a celebration of the human form and its movement. For her upcoming exhibition, she uses basic colours - white, red, yellow, black, green and then blue from lapis lazuli.

“These colours are mixed and blended to create other colours - but in some sculptures, I have made the colouring more abstract in the modern way, abstracted the form and concentrated on the movement,” she says “Art happened for me from a young age... painting, colour and shape. Clay has been my opportunity to make what is in my head and in my hands, to shape it in a way that is my own.

My inspiration comes from all around me... wherever there are people moving, dancing, stretching even walking,” she says. She picks bits are pieces to make, sometimes torsos, sometimes the hips and sometimes the heads and shoulders. “I also make full bodies but, mainly of parts of bodies that can emphasize a movement,” she says

She will be exhibiting her work in India for the first time with a local artist Seemanthini Desai. The exhibition is called ‘Revisited’ and will start on March 4. 

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