FOR OVER a decade, Indian ceramic artists have been breaking ground around the world, it’s high time to break a bit of ground at home,” says Ray Meeker. One of India’s foremost ceramic artists, Meeker has played an important role in popularising the medium in India. In 1971, when he established Golden Bridge Pottery in Puducherry with wife and fellow artist Deborah Smith, it was the first workshop to produce glazed handmade stoneware in the region. Now, more than 40 years later, he is part of another initiative that proposes to put the spotlight on the medium that holds historical importance in India but is also one that has been battling a bias in the White Cube.
On August 31, the doors will open for India’s first Ceramics Triennale. To be held at Jawahar Kala Kendra (JKK) in Jaipur, in collaboration with the Contemporary Clay Foundation, the three-month long event will befitting be titled “Breaking Ground” and will boast a line-up that includes exhibits by over 35 Indian and 12 international artists, symposiums, film screenings and workshops. “In a country like India, where ceramics and clay have always been considered as artisanal craft, the Ceramics Triennale will increase visibility and allow ceramics to be appreciated as an art form in its own right,” says Pooja Sood, director general, JKK.
While the event will see the launch of Meeker’s book Building with Fire, it will also have on display his exhibit Rio Stela. America First!. Cast in stone, the work commemorates the US position on climate change at the Rio conference in 1992 and the current policies of the US administration. It will add to the
series of environmental pieces by Meeker, a project that he began in 1969, as an undergraduate in ceramics at the University of Southern California. “But every time I try to walk away from the issue, it just gets bigger,” says Meeker. Korean artist Jae Joon will also emphasise the need for harmony between human beings and nature in his stoneware clay and red art clay work, Guardian of Nature – Gatekeeper. German artist Danijela Pivaševic-Tenner will interact with local communities to collect objects of daily use and install them in a room where liquid terracotta clay will be poured over them, adding new layers.
The international biggies to catch at the triennale include Geneva-based Jacques Kaufmann, who will base his architecturally scaled work — made with brick, bamboo, fired local red clay, mirrors — on Iranian architect Nader Khalili’s book Ceramic Houses. Detroit-based Jessika Edgar will “draw from media imagery especially related to gender, beauty, and material desire” for her work Let’s All Be Ethereal and Transcend. Japanese artist Saturo Hoshino’s installation Beginning Form – Spiral ’18, “emerges from a collision of clay and hand”. It will reflect his belief that his “interaction with clay is collaborative, and not an imposition of his own will”.
For several other artists the perception of their work will be based on how the audience interacts with them not through mere viewing but also participation. So Élodie Alexandre will invite viewers to use their smartphones or tablets to scan her installation Post-partum to uncover the intimate stories that share her personal experiences relating to childbirth and post-partum depression. In Not Everyone Will Dance in the Rain, Shalini Dam invites people to walk across her work in clay, where optical illusions animate the surface and the images change. In architect-artist Vishnu Thozhur Kolleri’s work the viewer is the performer who can play instruments and add elements to the artist’s pre-recorded interactions playing on a loop. Meanwhile, British artist Jo Ayre and Warli artists Ramesh and Rasika Hengadi will collaborate on-site to design a new work.
Talking art: On September 1, 10 am to noon, a discussion on “Clay and Community”, followed by a discussion on “Locating a language and practice” and “Material matters”.
On screen: Films by Keith Brymer Jones, Rajula Shah and Tan Hongyu will be screened from 4.45 pm to 6.45 pm on September 1.
Pen drive: Ray Meeker’s book Building with Fire will release at the event. A book on ceramist Kripal Singh Shekhawat will also be released, and a retrospective celebrating his work will be held.