Ratna Gandhi : sculptor in residence

“Things happening around me, experiences of daily life, are my main inspirations and somehow those expressions come out in my sculptures,” says Ratna Gandhi, Port Coquitlam’s new Artist in Residence.

Gandhi has been pursuing art for 20 years. In this time she has taught in schools, curated shows and displayed her art in national exhibitions. She will be working at The Outlet in Leigh Square from Oct. 2020 to the end of Feb. 2021.

The residency

“I always sought out opportunities in the field of creative arts. That gave me freedom to work and continue to do what I always wanted to do,” she says.

Gandhi moved to Canada from India with her husband and daughter in 2019. As she and her husband started travelling for his work, she realized going to new places and meeting new people brought a different dimension to her work.

“I came across this [residency] and thought this was a wonderful thing where I can get a space in the community and meet people that can help me get to know the artwork here in a better way,” says Gandhi.

Growing up with art

Gandhi grew up in India where her mother, Jyoti Bhavsar, taught art classes to people in the community. In middle school, her teacher came to know of her talent and asked her to teach clay art decoration to her entire class, which also motivated her to pursue a career as a professional artist.

When she got admission into the prestigious Faculty of Fine Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in India, she was introduced to different mediums, but ultimately chose sculpting and successfully completed her Bachelor and Master in Creative Sculptures.

“I realized that sculpture fascinated me more than anything and I decided that I would like to pursue my career as a sculptor,” says Gandhi.

Getting recognized

Ratna Gandhi, Port Coquitlam’s new artist-in-residence. | Photo courtesy of Ratna Gandhi

“Appreciation and acceptance of my work motivated me to carry on with my art projects and exhibit them nationally and internationally,” says Gandhi.

One of her sculptures, Family Fun, received a national award from the National Academy for Arts in Lalit Kala Akademi, India in 2001. The sculpture depicts family members from different generations around a table throwing their heads back in laughter as one member’s dentures lays on a table with an apricot stuck in it. Ten years after it was exhibited, Gandhi met a group of students who, along with their teacher, happened to talk about this particular sculpture without knowing she was the artist behind it.

“I felt so happy! I’ve met many people who know me from that sculpture. That’s something which I’ve always liked – people remember me from my work, not who I am. That was such an achievement for me,” she says.

Inspiration in daily life

“You can write certain things, you can talk about certain things, but some things are really difficult to explain in words, so for me, I’m really fortunate to have this medium,” explains Gandhi. “I am really fortunate to have the creative medium of art to express my feelings.”

Thinking of the audience, she tries to make each piece interactive by adding a surprise element to it, mixing materials or using figures so each viewer can enjoy it differently.

Gandhi recounts that she once made a wooden cushion – carved, polished and painted it – then left her studio. She later found out visitors had come to the studio and a small boy saw Gandhi’s work and began playing with it and jumping on it, thinking it was a real cushion.

“It made me happy to know that my paint and work was so realistic, that he was playing with it – that’s the achievement, that is the kind of interaction I want, that’s the purpose of the sculpture,” she says.

Although workshops are on hold for the time being at The Outlet in Leigh Square due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a mural is still being projected.

“We do plan to create a wall mural during my residency period, where community members can participate by creating their own clay piece for the mural,” says Gandhi.

For more information please visit: www.ratnagandhi.com

www.portcoquitlam.ca/recreation/leigh-square-community-arts-village/artist-in-residence/

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