WOT X CAS artist-in-residence interview: Nimisha Nimkar

By Ash Panjwani

(Supplied: Nimisha Nimkar)

Melbourne-based ceramicist, Nimisha Nimkar, is the second participant in our joint artist-in-residence program with the Way Over There Collective (WOT). Inspired by the palaces, geometries and patterns of India, she created three distinct bodies of work during her residency: Bodhi, Layers and Tilaka. The works delicately explore the connection between humans, spirituality, resilience and nature.

A graphic designer by trade, Nimisha picked up ceramics when she moved to Australia from India. She was inspired to take up ceramics by her love for pottery, something she developed as a child watching potters craft pots in the villages of India, using traditional methods and equipment. I spoke to Nimisha about the residency, the inspiration behind her non-functional pieces, and her love for ceramics.   

Can you tell me about your art in the WOT X CAS residency? What did you work on?

I completed three different works during my residency: Bodhi, Layers and Tilaka. Before my residency I had already begun a series of works, and I wanted to make pieces that were an extension of that series.

Bodhi is a porcelain slip castor tea light. I used geometric patterns inspired by human enlightenment, and light at the start of the day. I was also inspired by meditation, and I wanted to visualise this piece as a ‘ball of light’.

Layers is an extension of work on the Rajasthan palaces I have done previously. The piece is window carvings made from Porcelain. Layers explores the significance of having intricate designs in palaces, and I also allude to old patriarchal societal norms – as in the old days women were not allowed to step out of palaces, because of social restrictions. The only way women could see the outside world was through the layers and patterns of the windows.

Tilakas are a patterned mark that that saints wear on their forehead in India. They are religious, and the saints have all different kinds of designs. In my work, Tilaka, I wanted to delve into the meanings of the different patterns and colours of Tilakas.

The residency gave me the opportunity to really get back into ceramics. I also really valued the support I received from the entire residency program, and I plan to continue building on the works I created during my residency.

You create a lot of non-functional pieces, what are the inspirations behind these works?

A huge influence for me is my cultural background. I am inspired by local folk art from India. A lot of my inspiration also comes from human nature, and the resilience of human beings. It also comes from the overall concept of the ‘human journey’, such as the idea of coming across hurdles, and then moving on.

Creatively, I’m influenced by the palaces of India, particularly those from traditional Rajasthani and Gujrati, attesting to my Gujrati heritage. When I moved to Australia, my art definitely evolved. I found a middle ground, and adapted my work for the different audience in Australia.

My non-functional pieces draw on both South Asian and Western influences. But having said that, I keep the subjects of human nature, resilience, enlightenment, and the progress of Indian society central to my artwork. I then support this through a brief explanation of the work/s in an artist statement; to state my inspiration and the messages behind the pieces.

Nimisha’s work Layers on display.

So, why are you particularly interested in pottery and ceramics?

I have always been interested in ceramics. In smaller towns and villages of India, they always have potters that make functional pieces. Usually water pots, jugs et cetera, always made out of terracotta. I remember watching them with fascination throughout childhood and during my travels. While I was at university, I was exposed to different forms of art. But I managed to do one term with a ceramics class, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I moved to Australia, I decided to give up graphic design and take up ceramics. This was about 21 years ago.

Tilaka, is a piece inspired by the religious markings on Indian priests.

In your residency, you worked with porcelain and clay, and just now touched on the use of timber, glass and metal. Why are you drawn particularly to such earthy materials?

For me, nature represents resilience. My pieces are made mostly with porcelain, clay and timber. I often use timber in my works because Australia has a lot of timber. Given that Australia has a lot of bush fires, I enjoy using both timber and driftwood, to display the concept of the resilience of nature despite adverse situations – there are disastrous bushfires, yet we see grass, plants and fauna continue to grow.

Nimisha’s final work, Bodhi, was inspired by human enlightenment, and features various geometric patterns.

What are your plans for the future, now that the residency is over?

As my ceramics are non-functional, I want to give myself more time, and start focusing more on exhibiting and getting my foot into the industry. During the residency, I was given the opportunity to host workshops, and I would love to continue doing this and branch out into teaching.

In terms of my artwork itself, I want to continue exploring concepts from the residency, and continue working with porcelain and fine clay. I would also like to play more with light. I’m curious to work more with timber, as I have done that in the past. I’m also interested in experimenting with glass and metal.

Nimisha and her works can be found over on Instagram, @nimisha4u.

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