For Delhi-based ceramic artist Ela Mukherjee, pillows serve as a getaway from the harsh realities of life. She has sculpted two fluffy white porcelain ones in Dream Catcher 1 and 2, and juxtaposed them with leaves, which testify to the countless sleepovers she shared with celebrated ceramic artist Manisha Bhattacharya, her friend of 18 years. Bhattacharya passed away in September last year from a brain tumour. Mukherjee is among the 25 artists, who has presented her work at an exhibition at Gallerie Nvya, Saket, to celebrate Bhattacharya’s life, and her love for porcelain.
Inspired by the stupas and Buddhist chortens dotting the Himalayan landscape of Spiti and Ladakh, ceramic artist Vineet Kacker has recreated the shrines, many of which store the mortal remains of enlightened beings, in his Tele Portal series. He says, “Teleportal refers to the idea of being transferred from one place to another. It commemorates the idea of things working between this world and the next.” Kacker, who is also the co-curator of the exhibition, adds “We lost a very dear colleague from the clay fraternity, and we thought of remembering Manisha by getting the ceramic community together for this exhibition. We chose porcelain as the main medium because it was the material she was working with in the last three to four years of her life. And the show has been titled ‘Luminous’ to serve as a reminder that even if our lives are short, they can be luminous depending on how we live it.”
When co-curator Anjani Khanna remembers Bhattacharya, her friend of over 30 years, she is reminded of her ever-smiling persona. She says, “She was always happy and never confrontational.” It comes as no surprise to see why Khanna chose to attach Kahlil Gibran’s words to describe her work Friends in porcelain, where three yalis — mythical humans with the head of animals — are seen armed with a handbag, fish and fishnets, as if they were returning from a stint of fishing. Gibran’s words perhaps evoke the beauty of their friendship: “When you part from your friend, grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.”
According to renowned ceramic artist Ray Meeker, who knew her from her student days at Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry since 1989, Bhattacharya was one of the first artists in the country to use raku “as a medium of serious expression”. Having been guided by internationally acclaimed ceramic artist Wayne Higby at Alfred University in New York, the traditional Japanese firing technique, deeply connected with Japanese tea ceremonies, soon earned her the name ‘Raku mistress’. Raku and smoke fire became her signature, while many of the objects she created took on the form of vessels. “Luminous” is at Gallerie Nvya, Saket, till November 7