India’s only daily art newspaper

Himmat Shah, Part 1: The poet of clay and ceramics



There is nothing straight about Himmat Shah. From his personal life to his art, which keeps meandering into different contours in ways one can not even imagine. One can experience them though, this process of exploring the unknown within him and around and his capacity to reveal some bits. Crossing the threshold of 90 years, he continues to amaze with his unique mysteries made in clay and other mediums. At one level as real as clay and at another morphing into an abstract experiential surprise. There is something deeply moving about his works accumulated over the years with his astute diligence and sincerity. And he has been very generous to share his gifts with us all as well.

To be face to face with Himmat Shah is another experience. Some times I have felt his fluid presence reminding me of sudden rains, sometimes fountain shaping into a river, which is merging into the sea. One can not fathom the movement but one can experience the cosmic connect when you are around him in a series of creation and immersion, the making and breaking. Sometimes so much illuminated that it begins to hurt the eyes, sometimes suddenly so dark, that it is out to engulf you. 


One can notice a wide conditioning, if one were to attempt knowing his creative process. His art mirrors his entire lived life. In fact, to be a thinking man seasoned by suffering mundane miseries and in the process achieving some insights is what Himmat Shah is all about. He transcends thresholds of time and space. And writing prose about him is challenged to capture him, like a musical notation not tuned with heart and soul. I feel poetry has a better chance, where he and his works can be described by metaphors emerging, word pictures, resonating his creations. 


Today, Himmat Shah’s works are amongst the world’s best. We can say he writes visual poetry through his pottery and works. One can see simple expressions of deep philosophical undertones with smooth spontaneity. One can notice the flow of life and death and the continuity thereof through his works, each time coming with its own exclusive shape and design. Indirectly one can connect the source of his works in nature itself. He says,”Nature believes in exclusivity and diversity is its biggest concern, and avoids tones of superiority. This diversity is the most beautiful thing about nature. To accept it, to engage with it is respecting humanity in real terms. That is where the synthesis of thoughts take birth and the consciousness finds expression.\” Himmat Shah is this worshipper of beauty, full of his own exclusivity, which is separate in terms of thought and practice, but at the level of realisation he finds a measure of supreme salvation in this. 

He feels human beings can develop only by engaging with art, which brings something new each moment, each gesture of which brings a new kind of meaning and definitely brings amazing thrill. ‘Since the real thrill has gone far away from our lives, we can only reclaim it through various art forms, which bring fresh sights, which is expressed by so many artists and so much of philosophy is woven around it.’ He mentions Kabir, the great Bhakti poet’s verse, ‘is ghat antar baag bagiche (the garden is inside the pitcher), ‘This is not just words, there is a deep realisation in it and it is accessible to all. We will be overwhelmed, if we think about it. Only then we can make a better world.’

Continued in Part 2.