Some creation myths say that man was first fashioned out of clay. When it was discovered that clay could be transformed into art objects, the ceramics industry took root. Thousands of years ago India and Mesopotamia started manufacturing ceramic tiles, and pottery soon took over for functional and artistic purposes.
Today, the wet, sticky soil is not just useful for a potter's wheel, its malleability has been appropriated to relieve stress in boutique urban studios and hobby courses. Globally, ceramic artists are suddenly commanding record auction prices and Instagram is flush with funky pictures of delightfully carved pots and pans from a young breed of craftspeople. It is therefore no surprise that India will soon host its first Ceramics Triennale.
Titled Breaking Ground, the first ever international ceramics event, to be held at the Jawahar Kala Kendra from August 31 to 18 November, will bring together 35 Indian and 12 international artist projects along with 10 collaborations, speakers, film screenings, workshops and a symposium. The attempt is to push ceramics beyond the fold of the artisanal and decorative into the realm of fine art, worthy of prolonged intellectual and aesthetic engagement. The unique architecture of the newly renovated Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur is expected to offer an appropriate stage to unveil India's growing sophistication in the use of ceramics within and outside the bounds of traditional galleries.
“Long relegated to the status of second-class citizen in the world of art, in the 21st century, ceramics have taken on a renewed urgency and relevance in international contemporary artistic practice. Primordial and ubiquitous, earth, dirt and clay speak to the very core of our beings and can spark our most fundamental creative energies. The Indian Ceramics Triennale will highlight the finest practitioners of experimental ceramics working today, those who are expanding our conceptions of an ancient medium claiming its place in the future,” says Peter Nagy, director of Nature Morte gallery in Delhi, in press note released for the upcoming event.
The Triennale, held in collaboration with Contemporary Clay Foundation, has been conceived by a six-member team of mid-career ceramic artists including Anjani Khanna, Madhvi Subrahmanian and Neha Kudchadkar, and developed with guidance from Nagy, well-known stoneware artist and co-founder of Golden Bridge Pottery in Puducherry Ray Meeker and director general of JKK, Pooja Sood,
Some of the interesting international artists include Kate Malone, co-presenter of the BBC’s popular Great Pottery Throwdown. Known for her large, plump jugs and bowls in "tutti-frutti" colours, she will set up shop at JKK with her studio team for over a week. There is Korean artist Juree Kim who was once artist in residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum and an exhibitor at the British Ceramics Biennial; Japanese artist Hoshino Satoru known for his abstract, avant-garde shapes; and Ester Beck from Israel who will exhibit a performance-based work. A collaboration of sorts has been executed with the British Ceramics Biennial for regular artistic exchange between British and Indian ceramic artists.
And how does one forget Jaipur Blue Pottery? A concurrent exhibition with the Delhi Art Gallery is also on the anvil to showcase the works of late Kripal Singh Shekawat, the artist behind the revival of Jaipur's famous traditional craft.