Constructing the Idea of De-construction

“Man Exhibiting Holes”, by Tallur L. N.; Year: 2018; Material: Terracotta hollow blocks and cement. Photo: Prerana Khandelwal

The Indian Ceramics Triennale is the first ever ceramic triennale in India organized by Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur in collaboration with Contemporary Clay Foundation. The title ‘Breaking Ground’ itself explains the diverse perspectives used in this exhibition. The term ‘ground’ seemingly stands for two different aspects- ‘ground’ as associated with clay used in the making these objects; and ground that substantiates confined concepts and ideas in relation to this material, that these artists and curators through this exhibition are trying to break. The intrinsic nature of clay and that of the exhibition itself is connected for the reason that the clay is not used to produce objects alone, but to develop the expressions of an individual. Exhibited works in the show familiarize us with the various methods and techniques of the making and the un-making of these objects. By adopting a contemporary language in ceramics and pottery, artists have introduced new concepts, and based on that, new interactions via their use of materials, technological advancements, installations and performances. ‘Breaking Ground’ is a journey where one travels from one gallery to the next to explore human interactions and confrontations with the surrounding materials and spaces.

An installation near the cafeteria titled ‘Nature’s Signature’ created by Vipul Kumar, is associated with his idea of nature and urbanization. He has made use of clay and glaze, while coloring some parts in moss green. His work is a comment on the hollow idea of development which does not recognize the importance of natural elements. The dried fluid of the green is a reminder of the disasters we keep creating around us. He compares the shape of these intermingling forms with a scarecrow in a farm.

Nature’s Signature by Vipul Kumar; Material: Clay and Ceramic.

Entering the gallery space, one comes to view a monumental ceramic installation created by Ray Meeker titled ‘Rio Stela. America first!’. This commemorates the UN meet in Rio in 1992, with regard to the continuous climate change and human interferences leading to the destruction of natural elements and resources. Several countries signed the agreement in order to show more sensitivity towards the still available resources. In the view of the US’s current position on the same, this work represents the fossilization of ideas discussed in the summit. The sculpture that stands like a heritage building, demonstrates calligraphic texts that have been carved to present the current status of the treaty. The work also acts as a landmark rock statue, that directs the viewers to the different gallery spaces.

The first gallery holds a retrospective of Kripal Singh Shekhawat, a veteran Indian ceramist and craftsman who had revived Indian blue pottery, a nearly extinct tradition of pot-making having its roots in Turko-Persian regions. His drawings and ceramics are displayed here in the sequence that the artist had developed over the many years. The effects of Japanese line drawings (which are also displayed in the show) can be seen in his detailed works of blue pottery which he adopted later in his career as his signature art form. As a whole, what one discerns in the gallery, is the nearly forgotten tradition of pot making. It educates us about the traditional methods of ceramics and also prepares us for the more contemporary developments in the productions and representations of the same.

As one enters the second gallery which contains works of two celebrated contemporary ceramic artists, Ester Beck and Juree Kim, one witness a move from traditional practices to that of the contemporary. In her dynamic performance video ‘Matter Is A Center of Dreaming’, Ester Beck uses 4.5 tons of clay to make an abstract vessel and use her entire body as a tool to rhythmically dismantle the sculpture. For her, the process of dismantling something and using her body to do the same, is more important than constructing an object. The flesh-like texture of the blocks of clay with a metal wire cutting through from several directions, results in wonderful cut pieces and layers of colorful clay falling to the ground. The wire is not just a tool here, but a substance for the artist to connect to her object and to transform herself into the tool, instead. While she is shifting the idea of making and un-making through her performance, Juree Kim in her work presents us with a miniature version of the monuments of the Pink-city built in clay. The artist exposes her clay objects to water ‘where they meet their destiny of de-construction and disappearance’. Her work is a comment on urbanism and its destructive tendency towards the heritage monuments of a city like Jaipur.

The third gallery in the triennale showcases eight artists who worked from two villages- Bapugaon in Maharashtra and Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom- to produce a body of works for a project called ‘Made Out of a Place’ which was a part of the British Ceramics Biennale in 2017. By using various mediums ranging from brick, plaster, raw clay, bone china, to canvas, photography, sound and video installations, etc., the project tries to focus on the efforts of the villagers in the preparation of the surfaces for Warli paintings, for instance, and techniques involved in the making of various other crafts. The works of Ramesh and Rasika Hangadi reproduce the folk culture and village life on raw surfaces such as cotton cloth tempered with mud and painted over by rice powder. Joanne Ayre makes sets of installations using painted pictures, bricks and painted terracotta panels. The sound sequences and videos used by the other artists within this gallery, gives immense attention to the villagers, their lives and their art practices. Instead of focusing on an end result, the exhibition brings out the essence of the making and their makers.

“Beginning Form- Spiral” by Satoru Hoshino; Year:2018; Material: Earthenware. Photo: Prerana Khandelwal

In the large hall of the final gallery, the first work that comes into view, accompanying two other works, is a sculpture titled ‘Man Exhibiting Holes’ created by L. N. Tallur. Tallur uses the material (terracotta and cement) as a language to depict the anxious human mind and its porosity and to talk about the absurdities of human life as a whole. The works showcased deals with human lives and its various aspects of living. The most enticing work I think, was the one by Jane Perryman called ‘Containing Time’, depicting ceramic vessels containing the fossils of grains instead of the grains themselves. The vessels here become a record of time and space.

Another work which has a similar idea and approach is ‘Beginning Form-Spiral’ by Satoru Hoshino, a well-known Japanese artist. Hoshino had experienced the force of nature when his studio was once destroyed by a huge landslide. He has an intimate connection with clay as a material and as part of nature which has witnessed and protected many histories. He uses his fingertips as tools to imprint marks on small pieces of clay. The tornado-like formation, of black (the black is a result of carbon that he mixes in clay), unglazed pieces of clay, is a metaphor of natural rhythm and chaos in human life.

‘Let Them Own Their Land’ by Benitha Perciyal has an enchanting liveliness and is intensely visible as it stands in the gallery. The artist intends to talk about migration, immigration and various other problems related to ‘land’. The homelessness and the haunting imageries of life as a result of committed atrocities has inspired her to create a work which easily connects to and disturbs the mind of the viewer.

Partha Dasgupta’s ‘Recollection of Manuscript’ is a play of vertical and horizontal objects arranged in a number of racks of a large wooden shelf. He has attached scripted lithographs horizontally to the boxes by using a metal wire. His work is reminiscent of domestic objects carrying memories of a past.

The show introduces us to multiple objects, methods, approaches and concepts of ceramic making. While on the one hand, we perceive the dismantling of sculptures and installations (the material objects), on the other, we see the use of technological advancements integrated into these works, where on accessing the barcode through a mobile app, we are able to digitally access the works and view the site in 3D. From the traditional, the modern, to the contemporary, we are presented with a new digital ceramic archive. This new intervention opens up possibilities and channels of approach towards the material.

The Triennale opened on 31 August and will be on view till 18 November 2018, at JKK, Jaipur.