For centuries, porcelain was known as white gold, to be used “for refined or the ruling classes”, says artist-sculptor Aman Khanna. He uses the treasured clay to give value to the undervalued. He fires porcelain to shape bottles of cleaning accessories and supplies, in a work titled Porcelain Sickness. Through the clay, artist Srinia Chowdhury reminds herself of a promise — to use art as a tool for social and political comment. In the works she calls, Samaj ke Pehredar, we can see faces of demons popping out of boxes on which the artist has painted bodies of women breastfeeding, sitting topless, smoking or combing the hair on their underarms. Displays by Tejashri Patil Pradhan, comprise scribbles and serious, intimate, juicy and gossip-filled conversations close friends have, on teapots.
These are some of the 36 artists from across the country, who make up the exhibition Porcelain 2018, at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre. Presented by the Delhi Blue Pottery Trust, the show celebrates 10 years of porcelain art in India.
While Rashi Jain explores the interdependent arterial network in the human body and nature in her sculptures, Neha Pullarwar questions man-made architecture with the juxtaposition of homes created by wasps. Aditi Saraogi describes the idea behind her work in three words: “dream, dream and dream”. Adil Writer’s work includes pieces created with layers of coloured clay. He also makes figurines using items discarded by his mother. “We are Parsis, and we never throw away anything. If something is broken, we will keep it in the drawer thinking one day maybe we’ll use it, and that day never comes,” he says. There are broken candle stands and a cow-shaped salt and pepper holder. “There are stories hidden here which are for you to find,” he says.
A highlight of the exhibition is the works of acclaimed ceramic artist from UK, Roger Cockram, inspired by his observations of the sea. While Saraogi and Writer are curators for the east and south zones of India, for this exhibition, respectively, artist Reyaz Badaruddin and Anjani Khanna curated for the north and west zones.
Traditionally, potters in India had only terracotta, earthenware or stoneware clays to work with, which were brown in colour, lower-fired and not as tough as porcelain. It was in 2008 that Delhi-based ceramic artist Leena Batra, who used to travel to China’s porcelain capital, Jingdezen, made efforts to export porcelain to India, with the help of Delhi Blue Pottery Trust. When it was offered to the artists, they claimed all of it even before the bags were opened. Steadily, potters across the country responded to the medium and adapted their individual style of making, glazing and firing. “It has been 10 years and we have seen the increase in the graph of the import of porcelain. It has reached all corners of the country and we thought it was time to gauge the success of the initiative,” says Anuradha Ravindranathan, trustee of the Delhi Blue Pottery Trust.