While her deep connection with nature reflected in the numerous forms carefully moulded by Jyotsna Bhatt, it also perhaps influenced the very medium of her practice. At a time when few artists in India were experimenting with delicate clay and ceramics, Bhatt decided to give the earthy materials numerous shapes in her kiln — from robust cats to chirping buds, ethereal lotus buds and earth-toned platters.
Known to be one of India’s best-known ceramic artists, Baroda-based Bhatt breathed her last on July 11, two days after she suffered a stroke. She was 80. “She was a gentle and generous person, who made wonderful work. A nodal figure for artists working in ceramics, her works received wide recognition and she would often travel to conduct workshops across the country,” says artist Nilima Sheikh.
Born in 1940 in Mandvi, Kutch, Bhatt’s desire to learn art took her to several places. After studying at Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai for a year, she enrolled to study sculpture at MS University in Baroda in 1958 under the tutelage of Sankho Chaudhuri. It is where she met her husband, artist Jyoti Bhatt, and also discovered her interest in ceramics. After studying a course in ceramics at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, under Jolyon Hofsted in the mid-’60s, she settled in Baroda, where she was also a faculty member at MS University from 1972, retiring as the head of the Department of Ceramics in 2002. “She was keen to share her knowledge with others so that they could also create,” says art critic and curator Uma Nair.
While her works are in prominent collections world over, in over five decades of her art practice, Bhatt experimented with stoneware, terracotta and the countless possibilities that ceramics offered. Partial to matte and satin matte glazes, her palette choices ranged from teal blue to moss green and the numerous earth tones. Keen observer of crafts, she imbibed the traditional and the modern. “There are multiple references in her work. For Jyotsna Bhatt each exhibition she had was another journey. Her works were like little souvenirs, earth songs that reflected so many rhythms of the earth,” adds Nair.
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