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Curator and Art Critic Uma Nair discusses 'Elements', a show of 6 Indian and 12 international ceramic artists in Delhi.

A booming Indian market

A ceramic exhibition that brings together 6 Indian and 12 international ceramic artists could either pick up the thread while severing the continuity or speak about crossing over of cultural trends in the idiom of ceramic making in a world that has come to recognize it as an art form. Forget the debate about craft/art but the fact that Marcio Mattos of England sold out and a number of international potters sold well on Indian terra firma aptly proved that India is a market to look out for in terms of ceramics. Delhi Blue Pottery has in the past brought together a number of exhibitions in the ceramic frontier but in a way this show could speak about the technicalities of choice, the parameters of bias and the refreshing angles of international trends proving that India has found its own niche in the language of ceramics.

A ceramic work can either have the authoritative power and hypnotic grace of the surface of the sea, or it can come down to mundane mediocrity, In the hands of a ceramic artist who can understand and weave nature’s prowess into clay it can reflect the sheer face of a mountain cliff or the sweep of a plain of grass — yet without any recourse to illusion, metaphor or representation, be a work that truly invites a heartfelt response. Think of ceramic works as cultural equivalents rather than natural embodiments, think of them as reflective absorptions rather than pedestrian churnings that have come off the wheel and Elements in the capital city of India came through as a mixed bag, a cocktail of concoctions that held sublime bliss and also brought indifferent reponses to a grand expectation.

India’s Hamada

'The art of ceramics is one that brings signs of pleasure in a variety of guises', said potter and teacher Kristine Michael to me 15 years ago during a solo showing. In a quixotic way Kristine is not part of this show, neither are some of the best names in the Indian circuit but in terms of what the Indian 6 have to offer the only works that came upto facing a definitive critical appreciation were the works of mendicant Vineet Kacker.The symbol of a sacred script, the lingua franca of vintage simplicity. the lucid languor of a dulcet toned glaze that presents cultural connections. Vineet’s works were a set of three creations in a meditative mould. Earth Mandala, Bodhisattva and Sidham-Platter Karma.The Earth Mandala platters looked more like stone reliefs that whispered the tenets of erosional counterpoints. All three Earth Mandalas somehow miraculously evoked the conjunction of land, winds, sky and sea. It is almost as if within this singular construct Vineet gave us the space of a primordial shoreline where timeless stability and constant vacillation continuously trade places.

Vineet Kacker:

Vineet KackerVineet Kacker
Vineet Kacker Vineet Kacker

Vineet’s Siddhi-Platter Karma in stoneware spoke in the vein of a flashback to the aura of antiquity. Against a tenured glaze that spoke of rough-hewn porocity, with the symbol just making a significant yet autocratic signature this work is more like a scripted tenet that travels through time. His series Bodhisattva platters had about them the deeply felt resonance of a ruminative distinction, a warming softness of intent that spoke in softened hues about the Buddhist leanings that venerate the chant but distill it in its cadences of inner silence. Why Vineet’s work stood head and shoulders above the rest of the works in the show was essentially because he was able to present a ceramic exercise that weaves into its recesses the quiet dignity of a meditative mould. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Vineet is indeed the Shoji Hamada of India essentially because he has been able to translate the dictums of indigenous strains and tenets into his ceramic works by giving it a deeply felt reflective rhythm that does not shout but whispers into its abyss of quietude.

Earthy Tenors

Then there was Abhay Pandit whose small pots and platters spoke of the sand dunes of Rajasthan.He played with the sandy textures of an ochre toned soda firing to give nuanced textures of the play of wind on sand. Between the indigo tinted blues and the encrustations of sandy earthiness some of his works spoke of greater things to come.

Abhay Pandit:

Abhay PanditAbhay PanditAbhay Pandit

Vinod Daroz disappointed greatly for his repetitive schemations that failed to touch a chord, Jyotsna Bhat the icon of contemporary pottery also disappointed greatly specifically because the works looked old and somewhat uninspiring.

Vinod Daroz:

Vinod DarozVinod Daroz

Jyotsna Bhat:

Jyotsna BhatJyotsna Bhat

Yet none of the others could strike a response but actually exciting for its sense of moulding earthy tenors into smoky roughened was the stoneware paper clay with textural glazes of Marcio Mattos who was inspired by the terracotta cups that served tea in Indian trains. Surface texture is the hallmark of his brilliance in handling his works and all his works in the show spoke of an understanding of the lyrical odes to autumn, here was a resistant yet reflective tonality of Shelley’s autumn leaves metamorphosed into the grains of sand and earth, speaking more in the vein of an Indian raga riveting in its andante which we call alaap. Playing between the inherent strength of blackened hectic sienna rusted tones his work seemed to be only an integration of a warm, fleshy ground is interrupted by pours of colour, splashes and clumps of abstracted color-streaks, which appeal to a sense of visual tactility.

Kaif Ghaznavi:

Kaif GhaznaviKaif Ghaznavi

Romance, violence, eroticism, mystery, nobility, languor, and exoticism delineated the raku fired glazes of Roland Summer who captured an enraptured cloud of infinite silhouettes on his pots and bowls, launching an abiding fascination with the rhythms of nature that infused staid European air-in some ways he brought back the recall of incense wafting through the ambience with his textures. The application of the sense of cloudy texturing in his raku brought on by the carbon markings suggest an innate fluidity that yields a smooth, consistent surface across the image. The continuity of the texturing reveals a softened sensuality that does not overpower but speaks more like a refrain and you realize that in the perfected art of the glaze within the firing Roland is more photographic than painterly, without being stylistically Realist. Seamless and somewhat distinctive in his ability to recreate magic from within and without his ceramic ware were perfect from the inside as well as the outside. For Roland the weaving of carbon is akin to paint-it helps the pot in question to accept — the mutations of sudden, dramatic and no doubt possible gaps in space. Yet it also suggests the power of the incidental in the act of cooling.

Roland Summer:

Roland SummerRoland Summer

Western Ferment

Then there was the woven platter, earthenware dipped and sprayed glaze of Ana Fitzpatrick that spoke of perceived refinement, delicacy and sophistication of civilized Western culture, which held the Orient in its hand as both barometer and shadowbox. Of particular intrigue was her vermillion-toned platter, which held a small bowl within. Fired in that otherworldly, blanching light peculiar to the sunny skies of Italy, the platter itself became a vital destination for Ana’s artistic pilgrimage. Ana’s woven platters gave a kind of visual addiction to the harmony of inherent hues of extraordinary convolution.

Ana Fitzpatrick:

Ana FitzpatrickAna Fitzpatrick

Speaking of convolutions, two potters who stood out for the fascinating process that brought them to their end result were Jane Gibson and Janet Mansfield. Jane’s thrown pots fumed with sulphates in a paper kiln spoke of her intoned ability to understand the workings of smoky embers and the divisional dictums of the co-existence of opposites. Beguiled by both organic and inorganic achievement, the intricate matrix of form and function that propels the natural world, myriad moorings in the coming together of the play of white and blackened calculative tonalities on her pots give them a candidness that echoes not only the brink of alchemy and magic, but also the prescient brilliance and longing to simulate the structures fundamental to the firing performance with paper in the kiln.

Marcio Mattos:

Marico MattosMarico Mattos

In some ways Janet Mansfield’s works that tempered the reaches of salt glaze and wood fired techniques took one back to the feverish passages of Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons, look deeper and closer and you could detect a hint of micro emulation found in fossilized stained glass cathedral windows in dragonfly wings, fishing nets docked in space with an encrustation of spider webs, Japanese wagashi in cherry blossoms and frozen pine boughs, and an ancient scholar's rocks in pluming smoke and rolling ocean waves.

Critic’s Conclusion

This show Elements spoke of residual reverberations in time, about nature’s role in the impregnation of creativity in the world of clay. Certainly in the hands of an adept studio potter a pot can be the result of a ritual that is resonant with in-depth rhythms in the rites of passage. Yet one of the more resonant echoes of the human imperative to venerate nature by virtue of mirroring is what brings about an awakening. In its ability to say so many things Elements evolved in both materials and technique to embody the strongly didactic structure and singular, intrinsic properties of the exploration of ceramics.

Between sumptuous syncopations, with its refined use of multiple carved patterns to create remarkable depth in the lush masterfully delineated textures and glazes the show oscillated between innate chemistry to mediocre mimicry. Another curious, rather esoteric, parallel can be drawn, owing its analogous properties to the coarse/fine poetry of labor and aging; the passage of time evoked by the human hand is indeed paramount. In clay a compositional maneuver can be revitalizing and refreshing.Considering the vast regal space of the Visual Arts Gallery one would have liked a few more potters,and a few more works.Too few works in such a magnificent space can seem dwarfed.Perhaps a few more names in the Indian ceramic scene would have added both magic and caprice.



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