Bhupinder Singh uses the traditional pottery wheel to create contemporary sculptures, a genre which he calls ‘altered pottery sculpture’ : The Tribune India

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Bhupinder Singh uses the traditional pottery wheel to create contemporary sculptures, a genre which he calls ‘altered pottery sculpture’

Bhupinder Singh uses the traditional pottery wheel to create contemporary sculptures, a genre which he calls ‘altered pottery sculpture’


Parbina Rashid

Chemistry can be capricious! It lets you down when you pin your hopes on it, and lifts you up when you least expect. Here’s an example. In the early 18th century, German alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger claimed that he had cracked the formula of producing gold from sand. When Augustus the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, heard about it, he kept him in custody and asked him to produce gold. Böttger’s experiments failed, but he invented something which was even better than gold — Meissen China, the European porcelain.

line of control

The fact that a young artist has taken up ceramics as his profession is applause-worthy. And what he has done to this art form is commendable. He has given a modern twist to conventional pottery by combining both art forms — pottery and sculpture. That’s refreshing. — Bheem Malhotra, Chairperson, Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi

This is the bit of history associated with The Manufacturer, which is reminiscent of the Royal-Polish and Electoral-Saxon Porcelain Manufactory established by the king in 1709. Three centuries later, a continent away, the same treacherous chemistry plays out in an obscure studio in Mohali, where we find Bhupinder Singh painstakingly mixing red lead with silica, feldspar, tin oxide and copper oxide to produce the shade of green that he needs to colour his freshly baked pottery sculpture.

The story of the altered pottery sculptor may not be as dramatic as Böttger’s, but interesting nevertheless. Imprisoned in parental expectations, Bhupinder tried to learn the periodic table and tinkered with acid-filled test tubes so that he could enter the medical field. But chemistry failed him and after getting a compartment in that subject, he switched over to fine arts. During his student days at Chandigarh College of Art, the nudge to take up pottery came from his teacher. It was just his reaction to challenges that pottery-making involved.

He not only rose to the occasion, but went a step further. He combined his love for sculpting and passion for moulding clay to come up with pottery sculptures with contemporary lines. “I hated learning those chemical formulae, but love mixing chemicals to get the right shade,” he tells us, satisfied with the result and moving on to the pottery wheel to mould his dream. So committed he is to his art that when he received the Sohan Quadri Fellowship, he invested the entire sum to set up his studio. And that he couldn’t become a doctor does not bother him that much. “I am now teaching my art to doctors, engineers,” he laughs, as he refers to his recent workshop conducted by the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi.

Tricity, according to him, is waking up to ceramic art, but sadly not the market. “People come whenever I exhibit, they even join my workshops but there are very few buyers. The taste for pottery is largely confined to the traditional pots.”

Going by Bhupinder’s creations, which are carelessly thrown around his studio, his signature style is anything but traditional. Though the base of his sculptures are made on the wheel, using the traditional coil, stab and pinch methods, it’s the top halves where he lets his creativity run free. “As you can see, most of my creations are modelled after female figures. During my art college days, I was influenced by Gandhara miniatures, which I saw in the Museum and Art Gallery in Sector 10. That influence is reflected in my pieces,” he says.

Another signature element is figures of trees, which he thinks comes from his habit of cycling around the city that allows him to absorb and internalise the greenscape. A die-hard fan of sculptor Henry Moore and digital disciple of Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chuen Lin, he does not mind picking up inspirations from different genres as long as he is able to retain his own style.

What about the traditional kumhars? “Well, I often visit the Maloya Kumhar Colony. I interact with them. For them I am the odd sardar who works with clay. And in all probability they are right. Except for the famous Gurchaan Singh, founder of the Delhi Blue Pottery Trust, I have not come across any turban-wearing potter so far.”

The turban, however, is the only link he finds with the great artist. He says, “I do take inspiration from him, though essentially we belong to two separate categories — his was pottery and mine is altered pottery sculpture. I have a long way to go to do what he has for done for this art.”

Having cracked the chemical code, Bhupinder will stop at nothing. 


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