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Volume 69 Number 2, December 2017-March 2018

Volume 69 Number 2

Indian Ceramics: History and Practice
Edited by: Kristine Michael

Indian Ceramics—New Directions in Vernacular and Contemporary Practice
Kristine Michael

SECTION I: Changing Vernacular Practices and Interventions (1880s–1950s)

The Rise of Art Schools in India and the Debate on the Status of Traditional Crafts
Partha Mitter

Vernacular Clay Sculptors Shaping Modern India’s Artscape—Jadunath Pal and G.K. Mhatre
Susan S. Bean

Pure Clay—The Potters of Puri
Purna Chandra Mishra and Louise Allison Cort

German Porcelain Gods for Indian Homes
Jyotindra Jain

Craft as an Ideal
Naman P. Ahuja

Idealism, Revival and Reform—Indian Pottery at the Crux of Craft, Art and Modern Industry
Kristine Michael

Shifting Sands in the Language of Clay
Ritu Sethi

SECTION II: Regional Trajectories of Contemporary Practice (1960s–2000s)

A Desi Bauhaus: The Development of a Modernist Idiom of Ceramics at the National Institute of Design
Neelima Hasija

Dashrath Patel—Constituting a New Republic of Elements
Sadanand Menon

Gurcharan Singh—In Tune with Clay
Anuradha Ravindranath

The Ceramic Circles—Pioneer Potters of the 20th Century
Kristine Michael

The Ceramic Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee
Peter Nagy

Bharat Bhavan: In Dialogue with Clay
Shampa Shah

The Baroda School and Ceramics: An Overview
Trupti Patel

Himmat Shah: Works in Terracotta
Trupti Patel

Forms of Regeneration—Latika Katt’s Ceramics
Kristine Michael

Deborah Smith and Ray Meeker: Expanding Whorls of Influence
Anjani Khanna

A Meeting of Sensuousness and Anguish—K.G. Subramanyan’s Terracotta Reliefs
R. Siva Kumar

Laxma Goud—Earth Goddesses
Geeta Doctor

Guardians of the Art: Two Collectors of Contemporary Ceramics
Dipalee Daroz

The inside cover write-up discusses the platforms that support contemporary ceramicists, and pages 1–9 showcase a selection of their works.

Thematic Ad-Portfolio: Stepping Out and Over the Border
Subrahmanian, Madhvi and Das Gupta, Sharbani
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 2–9

In this brief overview, the writers look at the activity of Indian ceramic practitioners at home and abroad in recent years. They highlight the funding bodies, residencies and public platforms like exhibitions and symposiums that have sustained this community of artists. The main thematic ad pages showcase the works of some the artists referred to in the overview and elsewhere in the magazine.

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Editorial Note
Gupta, Latika
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, p. 12

In 1948 and 1961, Marg brought out essays on ceramics that looked at early experiments in Santiniketan. This issue serves as a follow up to those. It looks at how the field of ceramics has changed since then and how there is a new-found interest in its technique and aesthetic value and its functional use as an eco-friendly medium. The associate editor notes that this magazine wishes to be in conversation with these developments and hopes to bring to ceramics a serious art-historical engagement which has been missing so far.

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Indian Ceramics—New Directions in Vernacular and Contemporary Practice
Michael, Kristine
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 14–15

In this introduction to the magazine, the guest-editor defines the field of ceramics and refers to historical and modern trajectories that will cover the local personalities, institutions and processes integral to this field.

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The Rise of the Art Schools and the Debate on the Status of Traditional Crafts
Mitter, Partha
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 16–21

The significance of the revival of ceramics in the history of modernism in India stems from its being part of a global rethinking of the role and importance of traditional hand-crafted objects in a rapidly changing world of industrial capitalism in the 19th century. This article traces the colonial interest in the subcontinent’s decorative arts to the Great Exhibition at London in 1851 and discusses the concerted efforts made by the British to set up the first art schools in Bombay, Kolkata and Madras that would train an early generation of artists and artisans who went on to produce stunning works of glazed pottery and other ceramics products.

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Vernacular Sculptors Shaping Modern India’s Artscape—Jadunath Pal and G.K. Mhatre
Bean, Susan S.
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 22–26

At the Paris Universal Exposition in 1900, works by two Indian sculptors, Jadunath Pal and G. K. Mhatre were placed on display at the colonial pavilions. Although both works were awarded medals, they were received very differently by critics. Mhatre was credited as an “artist” and his neoclassical sculpture Saraswati celebrated for its realism while Pal was relegated to the figure of an unnamed artisan and his figures treated as “statues” and not art. Using this instance, the writer traces the early history of India’s artscape, looking at different clay-modelling careers and practices and the art-craft divide they revealed.

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Pure Clay—The Potters of Puri
Mishra, Purna Chandra and Cort, Louise Allison
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 27–28

This article focusses on a group of Odisha potters who have for several generations been making ritual pots used in the worship of Lord Jagannatha. In the framework of modern studio pottery that accords supreme importance to originality, this tradition of creating easily disposable functional vessels stands out. However, the potters, deemed as temple servants (sebakas), continue to find meaning in this age-old community practice.

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German Porcelain Gods for Indian Homes
Jain, Jyotindra
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, p. 29

Porcelain, which falls under the larger category of ceramics, was used to mass produce a series of Hindu mythological figures in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries which were then exported to India. This inset looks into the history of these objects that found their way into the homes of Marwari traders in Shekhawati and Kolkata.

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Craft as an Ideal
Ahuja, Naman P.
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 30–36

This essay focusses on the work of Devi Prasad at the Sevagram Ashram set up by Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha, Maharashtra. At the heart of this experiment was the notion of NaiTalim, an education system driven by the spirit of swavalamban (self-sufficiency) that would create a new postcolonial nation of free conscionable people. The pottery unit headed by Devi Prasad aimed to train local craftsmen and improve their technical skills in pot-making, helping them to create more marketable wares. His legacy was later kept alive by S.K. Mirmira, Kalindi Jena, Dashrath Patel and Haku Shah.

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Idealism, Revival and Reform: Indian Industry at the Crux of Craft, Art and Modern Industry
Michael, Kristine
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 37–42

This essay looks at three important individuals working during the first decades after independence, who bridged the gap between the traditional and the contemporary in Indian ceramics. They took a village craft to the realm of studio art, supporting both rural cooperatives and creating new urban markets. They also built institutions that would train future generations of students/artists to keep alive their legacies. The personalities include S.K. Mirmira of Gramodaya Sangh, Bhadrawati, B.R. Pandit of Mumbai and Kripal Singh Shekhawat of Jaipur Blue Pottery.

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Shifting Sands in the Language of Clay
Sethi, Ritu
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 43–47

This essay provides a broader background to traditions of clay, practiced across various regions in India. From terracotta horses built for the shrines of Lord Ayyanar in South India to the nazar-battu tiles used to decorate huts in rural Orissa, the writer highlights a range of rituals and objects associated with the medium and also how this humble form is being brought back in fashion in modern eco-friendly products such as clay tavas, water-filters, Mitti Cool refrigerators and the Daily Dump pots used for waste composting at home.

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A Desi Bauhaus: The Development of a Modernist Idiom of Ceramics at the National School of Design
Hasija, Neelima
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 48–53

The Ceramics Design discipline in NID, in tune with the principles of Bauhaus, attempted to bring together traditional craft practices with modern functional concerns. Following the framework laid out by Dashrath Patel, and with the technical expertise of H.P. Vyas, material labs were built to aid the industrial processes of producing ceramics and providing a bridge between the school and the market. This article looks at the methodology used to train students of the department and the successful work they have gone on to produce.

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Dashrath Patel: Constituting a New Republic of Elements
Menon, Sadanand
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 54–56

Featuring the maverick designer, sculptor and founder secretary of NID, this article focusses on Dashrath Patel’s experiments with clay from the 1950s to the 1990s. From raw village pottery to streamlined, non-decorative, commoditized industrial ceramics and back to semi-industrial rural refractories, Dashrath’s career marks a remarkable journey. Despite recognizing the importance of technique, Dashrath was always open to elements of surprise. Unlike the works of other contemporary studio potters that carry an orientalist overlay, his pots and plates appear more “modernist”, their ‘formlessness” showcasing character and plasticity of object more than shape.

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Gurcharan Singh—In Tune with Clay
Ravindranath, Anuradha
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 57–62

Foremost among the pioneers of Indian studio pottery and ceramics is Sardar Gurcharan Singh. Training at Ram Singh Kabli’s kiln and then learning the secret of blue glaze from Abdullah Mussalman in Delhi, Gurcharan also travelled to Japan and Korea and brought his influences together to set up the Delhi Blue Art Pottery in 1952. This close study reveals the many nuances of “Daddyji’s” craft and the exhibitions, sales and training programmes he organized to popularize both art and commercial pottery in India. An inset describes his legacy, carried on by his son and daughter-in-law, Mansimran and Mary Singh, through the Andretta Pottery and Craft Society in Himachal Pradesh.

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The Ceramic Circles—Pioneer Potters of the 20th Century
Michael, Kristine
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 63–69

Moving away from the figure of the “oriental artisan”, this essay highlights the works of a group of ceramicists who helped establish the medium as a contemporary force to be reckoned with in the world of fine arts. The artists include Primula Pandit, Vimoo Sanghvi, Ralli and Perin Jacob (from Bombay); Nirmala Patwardhan, Gauri Khosla, Lydia Sperlich Mehta, Sudha Arora, Ira Chaudhuri (from Delhi); and Kalindi Jena, Ashis and Christiane Janah (from Banaras and Calcutta). Learning from traditional methods and craftspeople and using local raw material, these figures developed a post-modern language of design and function where technology served as an important tool towards extending techniques and surface qualities.

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The Ceramic Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee
Nagy, Peter
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 70–71

India’s pre-eminent sculptor, Mrinalini Mukherjee is best-known for her work with hemp fibre. However from the 1990s, she also explored the mediums of bronze and ceramics. This article focusses on her later work, in particular the floral and vegetal forms that found expression in her ceramic sculpture.

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Bharat Bhavan: In Dialogue with Clay
Shah, Shampa
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 72–78

This essay focusses on the Ceramic Studio that was built to accompany the contemporary tribal and modern art galleries in Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal. As a student of the institution, the writer looks back at the unique interdisciplinary multicultural atmosphere fostered by the space where upcoming artists and urban contemporary youth could revisit the primitive medium of clay and seek inspiration from the local craftspeople whose creations were on display. There is also a tribute to teachers P.R. Daroz and Devilal Patidar who took charge of the studio in its initial years and inspired students like Dipalee Daroz, G. Reghu, S. Gopinath and Aniruddh Sagar.

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The Baroda School and Ceramics: An Overview
Patel, Trupti
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 79–85

Among the important arts schools in the country, M.S. University Baroda played a key role in shaping the discipline of non-functional ceramics, bringing together students and teachers from the departments of Pottery, Sculpture and Painting. The Baroda School emerged under the guidance of Bashav Kumar Barua and continued to flourish under Sankho and Ira Chaudhuri, Kumud Patel, Jyotsna Bhatt, K.B. Kapadia, Mahendra Pandya, Krishna Chhatpar and Raghav Kaneria. Describing her own training at the institute and those of contemporaries, the writer describes the setting up of a Ceramics MA programme and other initiatives that have supported their liberal progressive approach to the medium.

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Himmat Shah: Works in Terracotta
Patel, Trupti
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, p. 86

Although trained as a painter, Himmat Shah was deeply interested in ceramics. This article showcases some of his works in clay and describes his engagement with Garhi studios, Delhi.

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Forms of Regeneration: Latika Katt’s Ceramics
Michael, Kristine
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, p. 87

Trained at the Fine Arts Department of Banaras Hindu University, Latika Katt went on to specialize in wood and stone-carving but also developed a special interest in ceramic sculpture. This article takes a close look at these works and the inspiration behind them.

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Deborah Smith and Ray Meeker: Expanding Whorls of Influence
Khanna, Anjani
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 88–93

Trained in pottery in America and Japan, Ray Meeker and Deborah Smith eventually settled in Pondicherry and started the Golden Bridge Pottery(GBP) in 1975 at Auroville. Ray has gone on to build fire-stabilized mud housing and create large site-specific instalments that engage with global concerns of greed, nuclear warfare and climate change. The article explores the works of these artists and students of GBP like Vineet Kacker, Adil Writer, Madhvi Subrahmanian, Sharbani Das Gupta, Aarti Vir, Amrita Dhawan and Ange Peters, most of who specialize in ceramic art and studio pottery.

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A Meeting of Sensuousness and Anguish—K.G. Subramanyan’s Terracotta Reliefs
Siva Kumar, R.
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 94–95

This article highlights the painter and mural-maker K.G. Subramanyan’s engagement with ceramics. Creating large composite reliefs by putting together square slabs in grids and mounting on them twisted human and plant forms, K.G created a theatre which presented an unperturbed contemplation of life and death.

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Laxma Goud—Earth Goddesses
Doctor, Geeta
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 96–97

Painter and printmaker Laxma Goud has also dabbled in ceramics, creating a series of clay heads that he later cast in bronze. This article looks at these works and his lesser-known repertoire of terracotta figures and objects, resembling earthy men and women and landscapes, which share the sensuality of his prints and etchings.

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Guardians of the Art: Two Collectors of Contemporary Ceramics
Daroz, Dipalee
Vol. 69 No. 2, December 2017–March 2018, pp. 98–103

Around the mid-20th century when Indian potters/artists were experimenting to lend a new contemporary edge to ceramics, the medium drew the attention of certain collectors who were keen to buy and preserve these relatively fragile craft works. This article profiles two such passionate collectors—Jal Arya of Mumbai and Raj Kubba of Delhi. While it was art galleries that initially sensitized both of them, they soon developed their own sensibilities and acquired a wide range of functional and non-functional ceramics, some of which are discussed in the article along with their creators. What is highlighted throughout is the way in which the technical process of the ceramic object extends to the emotional private worlds of its receivers and their homes.

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