Implicit in the title of Emami Art’s recent show of ceramics, Bhu: The Act of Becoming, is both a tribute to terra and a celebration of the magical transformation of wet clay into usable, durable objects through human ingenuity. Utility objects that facilitated pre-historic agricultural settlements came to be invested with cultural meaning and inventive flair.
And inventive flair is what makes some of the works in this show stand out. Like the panels of Shalini Dam that recall the rigour of geometric abstraction seen in artists like Agnes Martin. Rows of little terracotta pieces, subtly differentiated by their tones and interrupted by arches and rectangles in the middle, refer to shards recovered from digs and neatly displayed as well as to temple architecture.
Speaking of digs takes you to Indrani Singh Cassime’s Indomitable (picture) that imitates pottery reconstructed from shards: what’s broken isn’t necessarily lost. Articulate reticence is seen in Shweta Mansingka’s The Seeker. Its twelve blackened bowls, arranged clockwise according to diminishing degrees of damage, appear as a testament to Time.
An off-kilter elegance marks the pieces of Falguni Bhatt. Especially when the folds of prettily-painted cloth are imitated in porcelain and tall, colourful, slightly leaning stoneware jars bring to mind mysterious fairy tale towers imprisoning princesses. Saraswati’s capricious, quirky, enticingly ramshackle structures — reminiscent of toy houses and rathas — have a riveting presence. No less quirky is the imagination of Shilpi Sharma who presents intricate forms with minute detailing in delicate tones that lend stoneware a wispy, ephemeral fragility.
While her kingfishers and owls have a winning charm, Kavita Pandya Ganguly’s Jungle of Emotions echoes the playful spontaneity of doodling. And play takes on a nudging amusement in Devesh Upadhyay’s figures that, together, script a satiric narrative. His elaborate tableau, with nine figures, records nine different grimaces of irritation when Celebration turns into an assault of ear-splitting decibels on people. Noticeable works also come from Vinod Daroz, Partha Dasgupta and Keshari Nandan Prasad.