WOMEN OF LOVEBIRDS
08 LATIKA NEHRA
IN CONVERSATION WITH CERAMIC ARTIST LATIKA NEHRA ON DISCOVERING TRUE FULFILMENT IN TACTILE EXPERIENCES, DEVELOPING SOURCES THROUGH INQUIRY IN HER ART, OPTING FOR FUNCTIONAL FASHION, AND MORE. PHOTOGRAPHER MARK PILLAI ADDS TO HIS DADA-ISM INSPIRED VISUAL ADAPTATION OF THE PHOTO ESSAY.
1. You’ve been in the art and design sphere for a long time. What led you to ceramics and how did you arrive at where you are today?
Latika: I always knew I was going to do something of my own. I wasn’t exactly sure what but all my past stints and experiences in the art and design space helped me chart this course. My master's thesis revolved around proving that sustainability was a natural consequence of social and economic activities involving handwork, specifically in contrast to a hyper-automated world. I guess that’s where the seed had been sown. Of course, I was using my ‘hands’ to design as a graphic designer but I found true fulfilment in tactile experiences. One uses a brush to transfer their ideas while painting too but with ceramics, the connection with conception is very real and sensory.
2. From a graphic designer to a sculptor, how did you find your way through these contradicting disciplines? Did you always gravitate towards organic forms?
Latika: Graphic design and sculpting are actually not that contradicting–both disciplines rely hugely on form and narrative. Other similarities would be the aspect of designing in 3D, the negative space adding meaning, variables of colour and texture, and endless fine-tuning. The one big difference between the two would be the ‘sense of touch’ and that things move a lot more slowly in ceramics. You cannot rush it, it will not work! Stuff will break and there is no Ctrl-Z or backing up on a hard drive. The packaging and logistics of fragile work are a whole different deal altogether. It’s a constant process of applying my learnings from that field to my ceramic work today.
3. Tell us about your work/design process?
Latika: When I started off, I learned from what was already out there–taking direct inspiration and building my version of a masterpiece in order to acquire technique and better my skills. But as I gradually gained control of the medium, it helped me convey my ideas better. Oftentimes, the inspiration may seem random but I work towards a focal point, a subject, or a theme that transforms into the source for creating as its inquiry grows. It’s the process of ‘making’ that keeps me going.
4. Indigenous and unpredictable seem like the ‘buzzwords’ in your career course. What can we expect next from you?
Latika: I am learning about prehistoric ceramic art as I continue to hone my own craft. Earlier, forms were rather simplistic and the beliefs mystical. My latest work reflects these themes–sculptures that evoke something primal about our connection with nature, similar to objects that early humans built like totems that gave meaning to their world.
5. Ceramics and pottery are deeply-rooted in our country’s craft ecosystem. Can we expect a collaboration with local artisans at a global level from you?
Latika: The craft scene in India is colossal in scale and depth and is truly complex. I am definitely keen on learning age-old techniques and using local materials. But unless I invest the time, a credible collaboration is not possible. Perhaps, after a few years, when I have exhausted my archetypal concepts and satiated my artistic ego, I will give in to the crafts more sincerely.
6. As a part of the succeeding generation of powerful, contemporary Indian women, we want to understand your style and what fashion means to you. How do you translate your ideologies into your sartorial choices and practices?
Latika: I think personal style develops in tandem with personal growth. In fact, the former communicates the latter. My fashion choices have become more decisive as I become more sure of myself. I like to wear clothes that have longevity and are not trend-centric. I always go for strong fabrics and dynamic styles that are long-lasting and functional when I am working. For after hours, I would describe my fashion choices as easy-chic and tasteful.
7. What was the central theme that anchored this photo essay? Tell us about its inception and your visual translation of Latika’s ceramic art.
Mark: I wanted to do something fun and absurd. Something Dadaist that is reminiscent of the photo collages made in the early last century. In a visually saturated world, it was an exciting opportunity to push this beyond a generic fashion shoot. We discussed various possibilities but it all came together on the day of the shoot, where the form and fluidity of the garments directed Latika’s movements and poses. In post-production, a curious landscape of sculptures dominates the collages, and Latika can be seen in different emotions; jumping, strolling, and sometimes succumbing to but continuously navigating through this world.
LATIKA NEHRA IN LOVEBIRDS SUMMER’22
CONCEPT AND IMAGES: MARK PILLAI
CURATION: GARIYASHI BHUYAN