This artist-led initiative aims at increasing the visibility of ceramics as an art form with 35 Indian and 12 international artist projects.
The event opened on 31 August and is view until 18 November with several collaborations, symposia, film screenings and workshops as part of its calendar. Art Radar also talks to Anjani Khanna, Director, Contemporary Clay Foundation.
Ceramic art breaks new ground in Jaipur
“Breaking Ground” is the first ever international ceramics event to be held in the country, presenting 35 Indian and 12 international artist projects, 10 collaborations, 12 speakers, a symposium, film screenings and workshops for adults and children at the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur in collaboration with the Contemporary Clay Foundation. It has developed and grown under the advice and experience of Peter Nagy (Director, Nature Morte Gallery), renowned artist and educator Ray Meeker (Co-Founder, Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry) and Pooja Sood (Director General, Jawahar Kala Kendra). As stated by the latter,
From a historical perspective, there has been a major turn in the field of ceramics worldwide. 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.
This first iteration of the Indian Ceramics Triennale is an artist-led initiative, which has been conceived and driven by a six-member core team of mid-career ceramic artists, including Anjani Khanna, Madhvi Subrahmanian, Neha Kudchadkar, Reyaz Badaruddin, Sharbani Das Gupta and Vineet Kacker. There has been a huge expansion in ceramic art in India and abroad and the idea of representing ceramics in a broader contemporary context has become imperative to express the versatility of a medium in which many artists work. The projects in the Triennale explore themes of scale and site specificity through installations, interactions, technology and performances. According to Ray Meeker, Co- Founder, Golden Bridge Pottery,
For over a decade, Indian ceramic artists have been breaking ground around the world– China, Japan, Korea, Australia, Spain, the UK and USA. It’s high time to break a bit of ground at home.
The Indian artists were selected through a nationwide open call and include stalwarts like P.R. Daroz and Ray Meeker, along with a diverse group of both emerging or mid-career Indian artists – all of whom have taken advantage of the unique spatial possibilities offered by the Jawahar Kala Kendra to produce an array of stimulating, thought-provoking works. The 12 international artists are established, highly respected practitioners and include British artist Kate Malone, co-presenter of the BBC’s popular Great Pottery Throwdown, who set up studio at the Jawahar Kala Kendra for over a week.
Other international artists include Korean artist Juree Kim, former artist in residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum and an exhibitor at the British Ceramics Biennial, internationally recognised Japanese artist Hoshino Saturo and Ester Beck from Israel who has exhibited a performance-based work. Jane Perryman from the UK presents a collaborative project of ceramic and sound, while Jacques Kaufmann, the president of the UNESCO affiliated International Academy of Ceramics has created an architecturally scaled work. Jessika Edgar of the US and Danijela Pivašević-Tenner of Germany are also among the invited foreign artists.
The Triennale also has hosted a symposium in September to address groundbreaking developments in ceramic art practice, looking at its interface with technology, design and the socio-political fabric. The Jawahar Kala Kendra also partnered with the Akshara Foundation of Arts and Learning, a not-for-profit public trust that aims to integrate arts and education, to bring ceramic art and the magic of clay to wider audiences with a series of community outreach programmes during the Triennale. A collaboration with the British Ceramics Biennial has also been set up to develop a continuing reciprocal arrangement between British and Indian ceramic artists. Kristine Michael in collaboration with the Delhi Art Gallery curated a concurrent exhibition of works by the late Kripal Singh Shekhawat, the artist behind the revival of Jaipur Blue Pottery.
“Breaking Ground” has proven to be an exciting event that sets the ground for a continuing three-year cycle of art shows that celebrate the vast possibilities of the medium of clay. As Peter Nagy, Director, Nature Morte Gallery says,
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 highlights the finest practitioners of experimental ceramics working today, those who are expanding our conceptions of an ancient medium claiming its place in the future.
Art Radar speaks with Anjani Khanna, Director, Contemporary Clay Foundation and a member of the curatorial team.
As someone who has traversed the ceramic art world both in India and internationally since the mid-1980s, do you feel that 21st century ceramics have been able to take a rightful and long-deserved place in contemporary art practice?
World over the interest in ceramics as a medium of expression has been growing. In India, it is more recent perhaps. While the material has tremendous potential, I feel it hasn’t quite reached that potential in market terms as yet. Internationally, of course, ceramic art does often command high prices, but that is not always the case in India.
It is interesting to note that the first Indian Ceramics Triennale is an artist-led initiative. Could you share with Art Radar readers the genesis of this event and the role played by the six-member core team, all mid-career ceramic artists, in its conceptualisation?
We as practitioners were aware that there was a quiet but robust development of clay-based practices in India but realised that this work had not been seen together at a single venue. We were aware of the interesting work our colleagues were doing and also the potential that lay within, provided an appropriate opportunity presented itself. The two-member core grew to six-member team of mid-career artists who have had a wide range of national and international experience. We wished not only to showcase Indian artists but also to bring some interesting international clay based practices to an Indian audience. The work of Hoshino Saturo from Japan or Juree Kim from Korea was work of a kind never seen in an Indian context.
The Jawahar Kala Kendra not only provided a wonderful venue to showcase the kind of ceramic art we wished to but with director general Pooja Sood’s support it proved to be an appropriate partnership to push the ceramic arts to the fore.
In what way have you managed to showcase “alternative, experimental and experiential” uses of ceramics at the Triennale? Did you succeed in getting the audience response that you had intended – of going beyond the traditional understanding of ceramic art?
We have showcased a range of clay-based practices, involving unfired clay, performance, film, sound, technology, as well as all the fired clays, including earthenware, terracotta, stoneware and porcelain. Artists have explored form, concept and materiality in equal measure, working in a variety of scales.
The audience response has been heartening. We had a wonderful opening weekend, with numerous visitors and a packed audience at the two-day symposium. I do think the audience has had an opportunity to see the use of clay beyond the traditional vessel-based conception.
With 35 Indian and 12 international artists, and a host of speaking events, collaborations and symposia, how did the core team go about selecting artists and themes to meet the curatorial mission you had set out with? Were the installations bespoke pieces or from the artists’ practices?
Almost all the works, barring a few, were made for the Triennale. Artists from India responded to an open call sent out last year. From 106 proposals some 30 projects were selected and the artists worked over the last year to make work for the Triennale, often pushing beyond their usual practice. The international artists were selected on the basis of their practice and most were invited to make the work in India. Satoru Hoshino from Japan, for instance, worked at Art Ichol in Maihar, MP to make the work earlier this year and returned to install it in Jaipur in August. Juree Kim from Korea, spent a month working on her piece in Jaipur.
As the first event of its kind in the country, the expectations must have been immense. What were the challenges you faced in its execution?
We are a group of practitioners with our own practices and commitments. We are not trained art managers so have learned on the job, but we were also ably assisted by our Exhibition Coordinator Kanika Anand. One of the biggest challenges was garnering support for a maiden venture, but we were lucky to have some patrons like Sangita Jindal, Khanjan Dalal and Pheroza Godrej who have known our work over the years and were happy to support us. International agencies like the INKO Centre, ProHelvetia, Swiss Arts Council and the Japan Foundation were also very enthusiastic and supportive. The artists themselves were wonderful as well. Our outreach partner, the Akshara Foundation of Arts and Learning also offered invaluable advice and support.
Jaipur has a long tradition of art appreciation. When an opportunity to work with the Jawahar Kala Kendra presented itself, it seemed like a perfect fit. The architecture of the Jawahar Kala Kendra was both backdrop and inspiration for many of the artists. Jaipur also is famous for the Jaipur Blue Pottery and JKK commissioned a collateral exhibition on the lifework of Kripal Singh Shekhawat who was responsible for the revival of the Jaipur Blue Pottery.
While ceramics and clay are integral to the history of Indian art, it has always been considered an artisanal craft. What do you see as necessary steps that we need to take to raise the visibility of ceramic art and make it more acceptable as an art form in its own right?
The Triennale we hope, as a recurring platform, will encourage artists to grow their own practices and also will educate audiences about the potential that clay-based art practices hold. While there are several serious collectors of ceramic art in India, as the numbers of people interested in the medium grows, ceramic art and artists will respond.
Are there any exciting developments in the industry, or any new projects in your own or the artistic practices of your contemporaries, that Art Radar readers can look forward to in the coming months?
As a result of our engagement with the British Ceramics Biennial artists in this edition of the Triennale, we have now in place an exchange, supported by the Charles Wallace (India) Trust whereby an Indian artist will have the opportunity to exhibit at the British Ceramics Biennial in 2019 and British artists will exhibit at our next edition as a part of the exchange. I will personally be participating in an international exhibition, “Particle and Wave: Paper Clay Illuminated”, which will be travelling to numerous museums across the United States over the next two years. My colleagues will also be involved in a number of national and international initiatives.
“Breaking Ground”, the first Indian Ceramics Triennale, is on view from 31 August to 18 November 2018 at Jawahar Kala Kendra,2, Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, Opp Commerce College, Jhalana Doongri, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302004, India.
- “In the womb of the land”: Indian artist Ritesh Meshram – in conversation – October 2018 – the exhibition explores both the strength of metal and it’s representation of exploitative labour practices in the mining industry
- Ram Kumar (1921-2018): celebrating one of India’s foremost abstract painters and Modernist masters – artist profile + in conversation – September 2018 – Ram Kumar is considered to be one of the country’s first artists to give up figurativism for abstract art
- “Drawn To Form II: Marking New Spaces”: a union of ceramics and drawing at Koel Gallery, Karachi – July 2018 – the exhibition explores the dynamics of power between drawing and ceramics, rooted in the very history of the region
- India’s First Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace, Jaipur – curator interview – May 2018 – Art Radar interviews Peter Nagy, the curator of this unique collaboration
- “Homeward Bound”: the 3rd edition of JaipurPhoto in the Pink City – in conversation with the artistic director and curator – March 2018 – leading international photographers present their work at site-specific exhibitions at various locations in Jaipur