Moulding Life in Clay


 

Moulding Life in Clay

 

Indian ceramic artists talk out loud to Mitali Joshi about their art, passion and Auroville. Seven artists from and around Auroville, an experimental township in India located on the coast of Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, will be presenting their artwork in Argilla ’18 in Faenza, Italy. These seven artists speak about how and what defines their art and how Auroville has been an inspiration to pursue what they are doing. Their exhibition, called Auro Terra (meaning ‘Golden Earth’), is curated by Supriya Menon Meneghetti and Indrani Singh Cassime, Auroville-based ceramic artists. Supriya says, “Auro Terra portrays our life and the place that has moulded us through our art.”

Supriya, a ceramic and ikebana artist, first fell in love with clay in Kindergarten. Her work is featured in the permanent collection at the Clayarch Gimhae Museum in South Korea and in the collection of the MIC Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy. However, 14 years ago she moved to another art form, after her studio was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami. “I took it as a sign,” she says. “I left clay and pursued ikebana. It helped me discipline my mind and learn the relationship between harmony and shapes. I loved what I was doing but part of me still longed for clay.” Now that she has returned to clay, Supriya has made unique and inspiring artworks that are based on her life, her body and the natural world, working mainly with stoneware clay fired with anagama techniques. “These materials and techniques have an authenticity, a direct relationship with the elements, which I want in my work,” she explains. Indrani Singh Cassime, originally from Delhi and now based out of Pondicherry, is a ceramic artist and a sculptor. After spending years learning pottery in the north of India and then working as a resident potter at the Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry, Indrani started her own studio, Phoenix Studio, four and half years ago in Auroville. Indrani’s artworks are inspired by the surroundings, and how the earth and nature evolve yet still remain timeless. Her work beautifully defines the balance between what changes and what remains constant. Indrani uses native clay from a lake close to her home and fires in an anagama kiln she made herself, to give the work a rustic raw feel and colour which, she feels, exposes its true meaning. “I do not glaze my artworks, I rely on the ashes that give natural glazes. It’s beautiful how the ash from the wood, which grew on the same soil as the clay, gives the colour to it.”

Puneet Brar, founder-owner of Windglaze Pottery, studied first furniture design, and later ceramics at the National Institute of Design. “My grandfather was a civil engineer, and he influenced me: I developed an eye for ambience and spaces,” she says. “Small things – the right tableware of the right colour, in the right place – make all the difference”. Puneet’s tableware designs are animated by local culture, from a coaster with a print of Indian women’s clothing to bowls that recollect the eating utensils of wandering sadhus. She aims to recreate the products that are going extinct in urban Indian houses. “My mentor, Anita Lal, played a huge role in motivating me and taught me to play with clay with freedom. I discovered the possibilities of the life around me.” At the Faenza exhibition Puneet is presenting her unique ceramic wall hangings which use techniques like pinching to create a layered effect reminiscent of quilted or embroidered textiles, and motifs such as the bindu to symbolise the beginning of women-centric activities.

Saraswati (Renata Sereda) spent years working as a journalist in Russia, covering social or political issues. Clay was part of her life growing up (her mother is a ceramic artist) and, after moving to Auroville, she decided to pursue it herself. Saraswati’s artworks are mainly made with porcelain. She says: “It is the best material to let you talk about fragility and beauty, with its whiteness, translucency and sound.” One of her recent artworks is a vertical building with rooms filled with tiny porcelain objects that portray everything that matters to her, what she feels at the moment or what goes around her. “I like keeping it simple: something that speaks less, speaks low, almost like a whisper.” Besides her studio work, Saraswati also owns a ceramic jewelry brand, Have Fun Pottery, that produces fashion accessories.

Dahlia Yaari, an Aurovilian from Israel, is a practitioner of Kintsugi, a Japanese technique in which cracked ceramic pieces are repaired with lacquer that is mixed with gold dust (or bronze/silver/platinum dust). She says: “It is beautiful how this art teaches you to mend things that are broken, yet not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, the repair is literally illuminated. I live in a community where there are potters around with a backyard of all their broken, ruined products and it’s like paradise. It is amazing that so many artists have actually given me their artworks to mend – it’s overwhelming to see someone trusting you with their precious artworks.” Dahlia initially worked with the traditional method of using gold powder, but now prefers 24K carat gold leaves.

Brought up by painters (her mother and grandmother),Nicole Alexander completed her studies in art and child development from the American River College in California before moving to Auroville. Nicole is an illustrator and a painter who mainly focuses on watercolours and ink but her recent interest in ceramics has encouraged her to work in other media. Nicole works as an art teacher in an Auroville school and finds her inspiration in her students and her daughter. “There are many layers and hidden messages in my illustrations! I draw on my life as a mother, but I use animals and symbols from the Native American culture to tell a story,” she says.

Clay helped Ange Peter realise her identity and stand on her own two feet. Ange started exploring porcelain in 2011 and is still fascinated with what it offers to her art. “My relationship with porcelain started when I used it as a canvas for Haiyu slipware technique during my time with Shibata Masaaki Sensei in Japan.” Ange is the first potter worldwide who started combining Haiyu slipware with porcelain, and is the only potter outside Japan who uses Haiyu slipware technique for her artworks. “The pieces you take out of the kiln totally reflect who you are, or who you are not – this is what I learned in Japan,” she says.

To learn more about Auro Terra in Argilla ’18, contact supriya@auroville.org.in This article was written by Mitali Joshi, joshimitali26@gmail.com