Vinita Mungi, Sculptor

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Vinita Mungi, I’m technically, by profession, a sculptor and I work mainly with the medium of ceramics and I’m also a Vegan Baker as well as a Fitness Trainer 

How has your relationship with Art been since childhood? What led you to study art?
My relationship with art has been very consistent, I would say, it’s always been a constant part of my life. I’ve always made art, I’ve always made artistic works, I’ve always been interested in learning those skill sets, learning new techniques and just building a vast variety of portfolio with different techniques and skills and just really exploring myself and pushing myself as well. Only after going to college, I realized that I’m not a two dimensional thinker at all, my work is now only three dimensional, it's all sculptural. I’m not a conceptual thinker at all when it comes to two dimensional material or medium, and I’m thoroughly a sculptor in every sense of the word.

When did you start gravitating towards ceramics? Was it always your area of interest when studying art?
When it comes to ceramics, it was sort of, love at first sight, I was in my first throwing of a pottery class ever and I literally looked at the class going on next to mine and it was a sculpture class, ceramics sculpture class, and the whole semester I was in throwing pottery, I was just literally waiting to get to the other room and to be able to take my first sculpture class so, I knew that ceramics was going to be my calling ..and then of course it's such a challenging and demanding material that  if you choose to make sculptures out of ceramics it's kind of like a complete dedication to the practice that you have to be completely focussed to learn the process, to learn every step, it's not just the building or the making, it's also the firing and all the other processes that go through to get a finished outcome. So all these things were super important for me to figure out and in the course of doing that I fell even more in love with ceramics. It was a lot of push and give, when it comes to ceramics because yes it can be a very malleable, fun material to work with but it can also be very challenging because its super fragile, it's very delicate, its difficult to transport but those are exactly all the reasons I love ceramics.

Tell us about the first time you exhibited your work, how did it feel?
I am currently showing my first ever solo show, my first show at Chemouldshift which is an extension program to Chemould Prescott Road which is an institutional gallery, it's been around for a long time. I’ve always loved going to Chemould Prescott Road for openings and for looking at artist talks or workshops. So for me, it was an incredible opportunity to be a part of the younger artist program and have my work shown through them and it was also really good to work with like minded individuals who really believed in my work and understood my work more so than anything else because I felt like I was seen for the first time, my work was seen for the first time. And I think, I hope, rather that the show kind of helped translate that. And the show just ended on the 23rd of April which feels crazy because I feel like it all just began right now. But yeah it's already ended and it's been a wonderful ride. A culmination of around 6 years of work, 4 and a half years of work in the show itself but it's been 6 years since I came back from my undergraduate school from SAIC. So it feels like a full 360 journey.

What is the research and process that goes behind creating each piece?
When I’m building on a work or developing a piece, it's usually a lot of reading materials in the sense that my concept is about normalizing gender and sexuality and when you look at the work for the first time that's not your first takeaway from it and that's exactly the point. The work at first glance on its aesthetic value is definitely about nature, environment, plants, trees, forest, flowers, mushrooms, insects, all these natural elements . But the underlying meaning is this, normalizing gender and sexuality and the way that it comes across through the work is if you look up close at the pieces you’ll see all these minor details and these bodily parts that are woven into the architecture of these pieces so hence its a marriage of both these two body forms as well as nature reflecting on the fact that we all co-exist and we humans are a consequence of nature and nature is a part of us as much as we are it.

Who/ what are your biggest artistic influences? 
Shilpa Gupta is one of the contemporary artists that I’m very inspired by. She doesn't necessarily work with ceramics only she is more of a sculptural artist but also very concept driven. I really appreciate that, I really enjoy that. While my work is very specific to ceramics as a material, as a medium, I like to think of myself as a conceptual artist so I really like to, I look up to her for everything that she has done and everything that she has said through her work and I think its been a huge impact on my life and has been an inspiration to help me find my way, help me pave my path in this artistic world 

How has your art style changed over time? Tell us about navigating to find your personal style?
My practice sort of started in a very different direction from where it is now, very initially I used to be a painter, I used to draw and I used to also make prints. I was very into printmaking, I’ve done etching, aa lot of intense still screen classes, all those things, I've done initially in my art education and then I started moving towards, like I mentioned earlier, a more 3D approach to making art and that’s when I truly felt like yes this was my preferred way of expressing and this was the right channel for me to bring out everything that I'm trying to say through my work.

 Which is your favourite piece and why? 
I wouldn't say that I have a favourite piece I definitely have phases, so as I’m working on a piece that is what I’m really drawn to or attached to and as soon as that piece is over I’m ready to move on so I ‘m definitely that kind of a person and I think its important to have that kind of an attitude when you’re a ceramicist. Currently I would say that  I’m really drawn to the larger pieces that I’ve just finished making  I’ve gone back to my studio after my show and I’m still working in a slightly larger format and making 3ft pieces instead of 5ft which was what I made previously I am very drawn to these larger forms now trying to push, adding more interactive elements , as well as detail as well as colour. So all these ideas are kind of fresh in my mind that will hopefully come into the work as well.

What, according to you, makes a “successful artist”?
Calling oneself a successful artist is very controversial I would say, I was uncomfortable with the word artist itself so success is a whole other thing altogether. I would say the simplest way to describe it would be if you’re content with your practice then you’re on the road to being successful. I don't think there is one level of success any artist can achieve. Everyday is a learning experience, a learning story to tell. One should never feel like they’ve completely been successful at anything, that’s where your creativity ends. Think of it as a process, and more so than successful, think about being innovative, think about being fresh, think about being consistent. These are all the words I would want to be associated with, more so than being successful.

How would you describe your personal style?
I am not someone who’s very well versed with trends. I am more focussed on what’s comfortable and looks good, I’m not going to pretend like I’m not vain. I do care about the way I look and I do like being comfortable just as much. I will never sacrifice comfort for fashion. I have my studio uniform which is what I call it, in multiple colors and its comfort and I think it's also fun, it's colorful and enjoyable. When I’m not in the studio I really like to wear clothes that I wouldn't normally get to because my everyday work is kind of hands on. 

How do you resonate with Teejh?
I think with Teejh, this beautiful lovely jewelry that I've had the opportunity to wear for the past few days, I feel like it again lends to this idea of being easy and accessible and comfortable. When I’m wearing it I don't feel walked down by the jewelry, I feel like it's super light. I can continue with my everyday activities no matter whether it's going to the studio or gallery or being at home. It's also beautiful, unique, it’s stylised. Just having worn it around the gallery yesterday and having people come in and appreciating it has been a huge testament to how lovely the jewelry is.

What does the future look like for Vinita?
I think my future definitely entails more of everything that I’m already doing, more of making art, more of continuing to be fit inside out. All these aspects are crucial to me, crucial to my mental health so I need to keep going, I need to be at it but at the same time it's important to take a step back and be appreciative and grateful for where you already are. I think that’s kind of the headspace I’m at right now but I’m also very excited to go back to my studio and make more work and hopefully have more shows.

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