By Hand From The Heart is a curated Makers Market event in South India. Upcoming Events: 22nd Edition: 2nd – 3rd February '18 in Coimbatore | 23rd Edition: 16th – 17th – February '18 in Chennai.
Aman Khanna is a graphic artist, illustrator and a visual storyteller, based in Delhi; ‘Claymen’ is his works of Functional, Dysfunctional and Claymen sculptures. Aman enjoys crafting with clay and enjoys telling people stories of the clay objects and sculptures.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a graphic artist, illustrator and a visual storyteller. Growing up in small towns and villages across India, I developed a genuine fascination towards the everyday man and would spend a long time observing his everyday, banal gestures and activities, mentally taking note of seemingly irrelevant details. After graduating in graphic and information design from London College of Communication in 2004, I worked in London for a year and then set up my own design studio ‘Infomen’ in London and ‘Infonauts’ in New Delhi, which I continues to run from New Delhi.
Claymen. How did it come to be?
After working in a flat two-dimensional world for eight years, I started exploring the third dimension by creating clay sculptures from the bliss of admiration for my surroundings and the common man who inhabit that space. I call them ‘Claymen’, I have been making these clay sculptures since January 2014 and along side I started experimenting a bit more with the medium to create various clay forms and objects.
The opportunity came after being accepted for the Pictoplasma Academy group show that took place in Berlin in April 2014. Pictoplasma is a unique project wholeheartedly focused on contemporary character design and art — abstract figurative entities that create a direct emotional bond with the viewer and have invaded all media over the past decade.
I wanted to develop a 3D character sculpture for the Pictoplasma academy group show. Initially I tried using wood but it didn’t work for me, the next material I discovered was clay, once I put my hands into clay, I just couldn’t take them off it. I felt some sort of emotional and spiritual connect with the material. This was the birth of CLAYMEN and I just couldn’t stop creating character sculptures ever since. It like a release to be able to mould shapes out of clay that personify my thoughts, feelings, and observation of my soundings including the common man and his dilemmas.
Its aims and reception. What have you observed?
“Claymen is a reflection of my personality, experiences and my observations.” Based on these I have divided Claymen into three broad categories Functional objects, Dysfunctional objects and Claymen sculptures. Brief description below:
Functional objects: These objects add aesthetic by taking it away. They are minimal. They are functional. They simply are what they are: a celebration of a style that lives at peace with its own little imperfections. These ceramics have been made with our own humble hands and are built to effectively perform the task at hand.
Dysfunctional objects: Combining aesthetic and design, these objects have no immediate use but are not without a function. The use of ceramics as a fragile material seeks to evoke a sense of empathy, hinting at the fragility of the human condition in a more general sense. In a world ruled by the normative logic of capital, where narcissism rules, and commodities are fetishized, these humble, hand-crafted objects remind us of the subjective value of human relationships. But crucially of labour and the social function of art.
Claymen sculptures: I create these small sculptures from my observation of the common man and his dilemmas. Claymen figures come in peace and maintain silence. Although going through their own existential crises at times they are mere spectators or observers to the notion that “man is losing his humanity and becoming a thing amongst the things he produces.” The idea of being or being present in time and space is reflected in my choice of material – clay is a simple, everyday, raw material used by everyone. Sun dried, half-baked in an open fire – clay is omnipresent and yet individual in the way one uses it. In time, the clay dissolves back into the Earth.
Claymen objects that aren’t brash or attention seeking, they sit quietly, doing their job well and becoming seamlessly integrated into our everyday environment.
Can you describe your work place / space?
I work between two different setups. Our main studio is in Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi and the remaining part of the work happens at my other studio in Chattarpur. The Hauz Khas studio overlooks the Hauz Khas lake on one side and a common courtyard on the other. Half of the studio space in the village is dedicated to the graphic work we do and the other half is where we play with clay. I design and mould the clay objects here and I do the glazing and firing part at my studio in Chattarpur.
Can you describe your creative process?
I keep on drawing different shapes and forms. Some times I look at existing shapes and create new shapes out of them. I personally like to mould the clay myself without using the wheel, however now I work with a village potter who comes to our studio and he to create round shapes on the wheel as per my instructions and I use these basic shapes as a base to create new forms and shapes including facial features on the sculptures, he also helps us with the production when we have orders. My entire studio of graphic designers is now partly involved and loves the idea of playing with clay.
The entire process is a bit cumbersome. Once I have realised a shape and form based on an observation or idea, we create a basic rounded shape and mould it into an actual sculpture. While the clay is wet I end up doing certain alterations to the objects most of the time. The drying time is about a week, after which the objects and sculptures are fired at 800 degree Celsius, which is called biscuit, firing. The objects are then sanded and glazed, which is another tedious process. Finally the glazed and some non-glazed objects/ sculptures are fired again at 1250 degree Celsius. It takes about 24 hrs for the kiln to cool down before I can finally open the kiln and every time I open it feels like Christmas.
What is the most rewarding part of all of this for you, as an artist?
The most rewarding part is the medium itself, I love to work with clay and applying glazes on the bisque-ware. I also enjoy putting up exhibitions and telling people stories of the clay objects and sculptures.
Tell us about the works you propose to showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
The work would be a combination of Functional objects, Dysfunctional objects and Claymen sculptures.
Anything exciting on the cards for the coming months?
I am in the process of making new and exciting clay objects will be added to the existing ones.