Lubna Chowdhary: “I Had a Foot in Two Different Cultures”

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April 19, 2018


The London based ceramist tells us about her relationship with India and how it inspired her aesthetic

Why did you choose to work with ceramics?

I enrolled in a 3D Design degree in Wood, Metal and Ceramics hoping to pursue furniture making. Even though ceramics was compulsory in the course, I really wasn’t initially interested  in working with the material because of its associations. I rather disdainfully saw it as a crafty, feminine pursuit, the sort that I was trying to escape and distance myself from. Much as I tried to resist, I became seduced by the immediacy of clay. It was a material that could be formed without the use of machinery or tools, it responded directly to your hands allowing you to create forms almost as you conceived them.

Lubna Chowdhary at work. Courtesy of the artist

Tell us about your relationship with India and how it has inspired your aesthetic?  

I grew up in Africa and then moved to the North of England. However, my parents were born in India and had lived in Pakistan and so I was brought up in a traditional Asian way. Growing up in a small Northern town, I had a foot in two different cultures and was conflicted about my aesthetic choices.


Family portrait. Courtesy of the artist

India happened to be the first place I independently chose to travel to, first in 1988 and then in 1990. I was studying at the Royal College of Art and my tutor Eduardo Paolozzi awarded me a scholarship to travel to South India. Being in India threw up many questions of identity and the dualities in my work. Sometimes I’ve worked with these dualities and other times I’ve moved between them depending on current interests. While I was confused in the past, I feel much more comfortable now with the world being so interconnected. I try to just make work rather than thinking too much about the roots of the aesthetic.

In 2018, we were so fortunate to have your works exhibited at Jhaveri Contemporary’s booth at India Art Fair. Could you tell us about your experience?

I felt very much at home in India and was welcomed warmly by everyone I met. My work was very well-received and it felt that my reputation as an artist had preceded me as I’d exhibited last year with Jhaveri Contemporary in Mumbai.

Showing in India with such a well-respected gallery has been a stellar step for me. Seeing the audience open their arms to me with a complete understanding and acceptance of my work feels so refreshing. It frees me up to just create work as an international artist without the usual compartmentalisation that occurs in the West. I’m so delighted that Amrita and Priya Jhaveri have taken me on.

Lubna Chowdhary in her studio, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

What is the most special item in your studio? 

Items, really! I have a very long, narrow shelf of small tiles and tests which I’ve made over the years. I’ve collected my favourites and its the sort of mix that I could never create again. Some of the glazes are very old and the recipes are forgotten. Some are happy accidents and some are just wonderful surprises from the kiln. They’ve been there so long now — some of them over 13 years that the surfaces are starting to dull.

What is your favourite place to see art? 

I suppose it depends on the art but I used to love the Whitechapel Gallery when I lived in the East end of London years ago. It was situated in the midst of the Bangladeshi community that inhabited the area — a strange juxtaposition of art world and real world. I also like Hauser & Wirth in Somerset with the juxtaposition between art and the open countryside. There are so many brilliant galleries and exhibitions in London, its difficult to single out one. We’re very lucky!

Lubna Chowdhary is represented by Jhaveri Contemporary and exhibited at India Art Fair for the first time in 2018. 


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