One with the Earth – Auroville Ceramic Artist’s featured in ‘The Hindu’


These ceramic artists from Auroville are gearing up to display their works at the Indian Ceramics Triennale in Jaipur!

Seven-feet-tall, twenty-feet long unfired clay structures, meticulously arranged to resemble a bar code. A Deserted Barcode, as the piece is aptly titled, connotative of consumerism, plays with a medium that combines Adil Writer’s favourite genres: clay and acrylic on canvas. The veteran ceramic artist is one of the four artists from Auroville who will be featured in Breaking Ground : Indian Ceramics Triennale 2018 at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.

The concept was born out of one of Adil’s visits to China, that got him thinking about how consumerism is slowly taking over the world. While his tryst with clay is 20 years old, he started experimenting with clay paintings only a decade ago. “I do not think one ever stops being an architect. After finishing my Masters in Urban Design in Houston, and working as an architect for 12 years in Mumbai, I decided to move to Puducherry to study clay work,” says Adil, who is currently a partner at Mandala Pottery in Auroville. “Clay took over my life actually, 80% of the work I do now consists of functional ceramic wear. The rest is what we call studio ceramics,” he says.

Adil prefers to not concentrate on any specific technique: “The way I work with clay is similar to my cooking. I don’t like to follow recipes. It just evolves over time.” . The artist says, “The conflict between art and craft is always going to be around in the country. In Sanskrit, there is no difference between art and craft. It’s called kala! Most other countries too do not foster this difference. Over time, art has evolved to the point that people started giving it titles. Historically, this was never so.”

While Priya Sundaravalli, one of the other artists from Auroville, believes that the fact that clay is a “low medium” is what makes it accessible to work on. She observes that Earth has always been considered the least important; this is evident in how we treat it. “Clay is something that has always been part of our lives, especially in India. Despite that, it is considered as a low material by some,” says Priya, who started ceramic practice in 2012. The artist with a background in medical science and industrial engineering, recalls playing with coconut shells and mud after the rains, as a kid growing up in Madurai. She would create little statues with the gooey mud. This is probably when she realised her interest in this medium, she says. “Clay helps one connect with something very deep inside. It allows one to follow the act of solitude and prayer.”

The artist’s piece titled Blossoming- Being all of them She stands there takes references from an early poem in Nammazhvar’s Thiruvaimozhi. “‘Being all of them — he, she, it, living/non-living, gendered/non-gendered — as a divine mother.’ It gave me goosebumps,” the artist says.

“Clay is the right material to reconnect with the Earth,” says Saraswati Renate whose piece, Anti-gravity intends to speak about subtle things that hold meaning and can be discovered only through a certain amount of effort. The 10 to 12-piece compilation of porcelain objects explores a minimalist approach. “I used to work on miniature objects, now I am trying to deviate from that to larger scale and proportions,” she continues. A former journalist, Saraswati moved to Auroville in 2004 to work on ceramics.

The works of Adil, Priya and Saraswati will also be displayed on auroville.com on August 31.