THE idea for the collaboration between veteran artist Laxma Goud and ceramicist Adil Writer came up in September 2015, when the former was in Auroville for a residency at Mandala Pottery. Writer, a partner at Mandala, was enthralled by the way the senior artist handled clay. Goud would regale him with memories of his childhood in a Telangana village, in which so much of the artist’s earthy, erotically-charged work is rooted. Writer wondered how these immaculate drawings would translate on clay, and one day, during the course of an interaction, presented Goud with a slab of clay and a needle.
“As we talked, he began to draw these clean lines and figures. The vivid stories he had just narrated were coming alive. I looked at this arresting drawing and decided that if we were to collaborate further, I’d like him to draw on my ceramic books and treasure boxes, forms that I am known for; with drawings that are vintage Goud. This led to a second residency a few months later,” recalls Writer.
The coming together of these two has resulted in a series of ceramic works, on display at Mumbai’s Pundole Art Gallery in an aptly-titled exhibition “In Collaboration”. The pieces are proof that it is entirely possible for two artists, with highly individual approaches and preoccupations, to create works that merge seamlessly. For example, the painting on Shield 5 has Goud’s signature motifs — a full-figured female nude and a goat — while the clay shield that Goud drew this on is a form that had been playing on Writer’s mind since he visited Australia last year.
Goud, a renowned painter and printmaker, has always been open to experimenting with different techniques and media. He has been working with clay for over a decade, producing his signature mask-like “heads”. The 75-old says, “All my work in clay has been collaborative. I do the claywork, but I still need the expertise of someone who will fire the clay, because the firing technique that you use is crucial for how the work will finally look.”
The artist first came to know about Writer’s work through mutual friends in Chennai, but it was his visit to Auroville that gave him a glimpse of what he describes as the ceramicist’s “proficiency”.
To collaborate means to willingly give up the tight control that one might otherwise exercise over solo projects. But when Writer proposed the collaboration, Goud enthusiastically took up the challenge, using the ceramicist’s playful forms as a canvas on which to execute his fluent, spontaneous lines and then surrendering that work to the vagaries of wood firing favoured by his collaborator.
The idea of giving up control is also one that excites Writer, and is the reason why he favours the soda-firing technique. As Writer explains, this was crucial for achieving the multi-textured complexity of the final works. He says, “With gas firing, one can place the object in a kiln and get a predictable look. But with soda-firing using wood as fuel, one never knows the end result. It’s challenging, frustrating and rewarding all at once. Even the colours you use can completely change,” he says, pointing to Shield 5 as an example. “This nude was originally painted by Goud in a bright red, but the soda vapour obliterated the red to a matte white,” says Writer.
“In Collaboration” is at Pundole Art Gallery, Colaba, Mumbai, till May 20