An artist in India - Ellie Niblock
Emerging visual artist Ellie Niblock traveled to India earlier this year supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Ellie has compiled this short blog recounting her residency at Art Ichol.
My time in India flew by. I first got to Delhi and it felt like it was 1000 degrees with a lot of noise, traffic and people, it is a very busy city. The journey to Art Ichol was long, but worth it. I drove through different towns and got to see a completely different side of India, however there was always a constant hustle and bustle of people, working at their stalls, bathing outside, getting to school. I was so transfixed on watching everyone and their totally different way of living. Watching the women in their colourful saris was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Each sari was unique and certain ones would catch my eye as I was drawn to particular colour combinations.
Maihar is located in the countryside and is surrounded by a breath taking landscape. I stayed with Ambica, the founding director of Art Ichol, and her family as well as artists and staff from Art Ichol. The accommodation was stunning. The garden area was filled with incredible artwork from previous residents. It had a beautiful courtyard and a busy ceramics centre, which is where I spent my first week as my plan was to combine ceramics with my material process and I thoroughly enjoyed working with Milan, a permanent artist in residence at Art Ichol. He was a great teacher who became a true friend. With his help I experimented with clay – creating forms and building shapes.
I could hear the local radio playing traditional Indian music which was so relaxing. Learning to communicate was challenging at times but made so much easier by the beautiful characters of the people I met there. We learned so much from each other – sharing each others knowledge of the raw materials as well as just about each others lives and I definitely felt it was a two way process for us. It was important for me to feel I was giving something back to them and sharing some of my approaches to art was just one of the ways I could do this. I was taught how to glaze my clay work, which was very interesting, and I can now continue to use this in my practice in the future.
After the ceramics were complete I was then able to add materials that I work with such as plastic and foam, which was exciting because it gave the ceramics an element of my style. I did this in the art centre, which was a short drive away from where I was staying. There were lots of different artists working there too both indoor and outdoor who were from across India and South Korea. I shared a studio with Sudipta, a very talented Bengali artist who worked with paper. Her work was very inspiring to me as she too, worked with mixed media. We worked well together and we were able to learn from each other by sharing different processes and techniques. I realised that meeting artists from across the world is so valuable as I got fresh opinions and feedback and it has already helped me progress with my work.
There were many visitors that came to Art Ichol, which enabled me to share my art with many different people, including the Mayor from Madhya Pradesh. Evenings spent under the mango tree sketching and drinking chai, were beautiful and calming. Not to mention the stunning sunsets with pinks, blues, purples and oranges to gaze at and get colour inspiration. Having spent mornings walking around the Art Ichol site in the sun, I was taking every single thing in. I found scrap metal and immediately had the idea to work with it, as my art is constantly leading me to try working with different materials and the ideas can be endless. I created sculptures in my studio with materials sourced from India and some of my own from back home and made two wall pieces. I really enjoyed working with iron and would love to try it again. These pieces remained at the centre and are now a permanent art piece at Art Ichol.
Having day trips out to see other cities like Bhopal and Khajuraho with Tanya who works for Ambica at Art Ichol was incredible. Tanya became a mentor to me; we instantly clicked and became great friends. She taught me many things about Indian culture and shared stories about different Indian Gods, which I found very interesting as it gave me further insight into India and its culture. She took me to visit art and tribal museums and the sculptures and patterns were so inspiring. Much of the art was large scale, which started to influence my thinking in my own work.
My experience in India was extremely impactful. Every moment I had there has stayed in my thoughts and it has and will be a huge influence on myself both personally and creatively. The trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if I did it again I would not do anything differently. Every moment was an experience that will stay with me forever. The people I met were so kind and welcoming, and that is the thing that really struck me as a lot of my work surrounds people, behaviour, and relationships. I will carry this idea of strong connections that people have in India and across the world. I went to this country knowing no one and came home with new life long friends and an incredible experience.
Note - Ellie will exhibit work created during and inspired by the residency at Art Ichol in Arts Arts Centre from 8th December - 21st January. For further information please visit http://www.ardsarts.com/events/absorption.