Artist Nabahat Lotia is a testament to all middle-aged women under the impression that, once married, their best years depart with their maiden surnames. After raising a family, she went back to school after 30 years and graduated from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture with a degree in Fine Arts. She was the eldest in her class by a considerable margin – an experience she described as “energetic”. But it was a sweet triumph on Wednesday, when she showed the fruits of her labour in ‘Metamorphosis’, an exhibition at the Koel Gallery with fellow artist, Sadia Salim. Salim is currently completing her education in New York and was unavailable to comment on her work.
“The primary aim of the show was to celebrate ceramics,” explained Lotia to The Express Tribune over the phone, “there are such few shows.”
Differentiating her work from pottery, Lotia clarified that ceramics are “sculptural and cannot be made on a wheel” She likes her work to be “organic” and derives inspiration from “natural seeds and pods”.
Which explains ‘Beej’, a rather strange suspension of dried carob pods. “It’s fascinating that such a small thing can grow and become so big. People see the big end result but forget the small beginning.”
She has used multiple techniques on each sculpture from Raku firing, wood firing and smoke firing to achieve different effects along with different glazes, her favourite – crackle glaze – literally cracks on cooling, leaving grooves that be filled with colour.
The row of structures titled ‘Manhattan’ was a general depiction of the artist’s “favourite place on earth”. “I went to New York and I lived there a little while, and working in a studio in the heart of Manhattan. There is so much you can do, I was happy just being there and working. The figures look like people and skyscrapers.” The ceramic ‘skyscrapers’ are bent, kind of like the leaning tower of Pisa and are awefully reminiscent of the work of another ceramics artist Shozieh Gorji. Their sorrowful drooping profiles may have been inspired by New York’s skyline, but the metaphor works equally well for Karachi. The Manhattan series sculptures of skyscrapers are all textured pieces in different colours, which for Lotia was symbolic as New York is a cosmoplitan melting pot with people of all different colours.
Other than her love for sculpture, there was not much Lotia wanted to convey, she did however, have one message – perseverance. “You have to keep on working, and you can never be dissuaded by setbacks.”
The prices ranged from Lotia’s humble pairs of ‘Beej’ sets and ‘Phali’ at Rs4,000 to the Rs65,000 untitled shigaraki clay structure by Salim.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2011.
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