• the-south-asian.com                                               APRIL  2002




APRIL 2002 Contents



 A Journey through Bhutan

 'Baikunth' - the mountain
 resort overlooking Kasauli in 
 Himachal Pradesh


 At Home in the world

 Visual Arts

 Jatin Das - 4 decades of 

 Studio Potters


 Zakir Hussain - Compelling


 Hakim Ajmal Khan's ancestral
 Sharif Manzil & Hindustani


 Eco-friendly Tyre furniture 

 Business & Economy

 Textiles of Pakistan

  Performing Arts

 'Fakir of Benares' -1922 French
 Opera revived in Delhi


 Revathy Menon's 'Mitr - my


 The Power of Vastu Living

 'Knock at Every Alien Door'
- Serialization of an
 unpublished novel by
 Joseph Harris - Chapter 4


 Naveen Jindal


the craft shop

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in Bangladesh



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Mukesh Khosla


   Art-potters-1.jpg (54470 bytes) Art-potters-3.jpg (49930 bytes)
L-R: Devi Prasad trained under Nandalal Bose at Shantiniketan and then at Gandhiji's Sevagram; Preeti Brar from Pondicherry…Artist in clay


Aesthetic Approach

The continuity of tradition and aesthetic approach is important to any art form and particularly in studio pottery despite the advancement and changes in the technology and tools being used. But in India studio pottery is still at a growing stage as it is only in the last few years that some of the potters have become financially independent and have also begun teaching. Lately, though some art schools like JJ School of Art, Department of Fine Arts, University of Baroda and National Institute of Design have started teaching studio pottery in an organised way.

Apart from veterans like the late Sardar Gurcharan Singh and Devi Prasad other potters of repute include Nirmala Patwardhan, Ira Chowdhary, Daroz Panduranga, Manisha Bhattacharya, Jyotsna Bhatt, Monica Agnihotri, Leena Batra and more. Though a majority follow the traditional lines of the Euro-Oriental style started by Leach and Hamada blended with their own distinct signatures, others are ready to break away and try a different approach.

Gurcharan Singh, the father of the art form was the driving force behind the growth of studio pottery in the country. Until his death in 1995, he relentlessly struggled to give this ancient art its due credit. He founded the Delhi School of Blue Pottery which even after his death has been carrying on its good work under the tutelage of his son Mansimran Singh, who himself is one of the world famous studio potters.

Gurcharan’s journey to fame started way back in 1919 when he learnt commercial pottery in Japan and when he came back to India he started making exquisite pieces. His son Mansimran recalling the hard times that unusual artists like his father faced during those days says, "Potters at that time were only known to make matkas and diyas, no one even knew that from the same process exquisite artistic materials can also be made. Once when my father told about his profession to a well-known bureaucrat, he asked my father to make some gamlas for him, thinking that he was just another potter".

Today Gurcharan has been immortalised by his works that adorn the Parliament House and Delhi High Court. Though pottery started off just as a means for providing utility items over the years it has become one of the admired art forms.

Adil, a leading artist belonging to the Pondicherry School of Pottery says, " Studio pottery is different from what traditional potters make. We regard clay as an art material just like a painter uses brush and canvas. The only difference is that in pottery you have to feel the beauty of clay with both your hands, while this is not the same with other art forms."

Daroz Panduranga is another studio potter who learnt his craft from Pondicherry. After completing his basic training from the Baroda School of Art, he too went to Pondicherry for further studies. He specializes in ceramics as he feels that this medium requires more involvement of the artist---physically, mentally and creatively. But he feels that studio and traditional pottery can go hand in hand as the " skill of the kumhar can be combined with the facilities of the studio to achieve astounding results."

Creations In Clay

So also is another upcoming studio Poorvi Brar, she says she was hooked on to this during her college days in National Institute of Design from where she learnt this art. Today she feels that this is the best thing to have happened to her because she is so attached to her art form that she could not think of anything else other than making her creations in clay, she too feels that the unsung heroes of this art form the traditional potters should be given their due recognition.

" The traditional kumhars are skillful and hard working," says Bani De Roy, " but they can’t develop it further. Because of their economic condition they can't afford fine-textured clay and use what is found in river beds which gives the end product a gritty finish."

Manisha Bhattacharya disagrees. "In terms of skills the kumhars are far ahead of us," she says, but adds, " the difference is that we look at it as an art form for the kumhar it is livelihood. For him the `hand language' ceases to be special or vocal and the skill becomes a tiresome chore."

The Delhi exhibition, which is a prized participatory event among these new potters, drew some amazing talent. Says Mansimran Singh, " Every year we see new studio potters coming to this art form with new concepts, which I feel is primarily due to the love for clay and its unique ability to touch the heart of the creator. This art form has grown in stature because it is a unique combination of painting and sculpting. Every creation has to be physically felt by the artists which can be a very enthralling experience".

However, though the styles of most of these artists are individualistic, there is hardly any cohesive movement to propagate this art. Most of the studio operators continue doing their own experiments and seldom share their achievements with others.

That is, except people like Mansimran Singh and Devi Prasad, who run full-fledged schools to teach studio pottery. For them, each of their creations is a labour of love and a deep study of varied pottery forms.

While glazes and designs invite a diversity of opinions, sales are never a worrisome affair with any of them. None of them needs to resort to advertising and all of them find the best sales of their pieces are by word of mouth.

Veteran Devi Prasad has acquired a definite coterie of collectors. " The understanding of this art has increased considerably and there is an increasing market. Art pottery is now rapidly becoming an item for investment and the number of collectors is increasing."

Buyers for such designer ware are still few though the costs can range from as low as Rs. 100 for a bowl to Rs. 2500 for a tea set. None of these studio potters is willing to stagnate or take clients for granted. Being largely a work of intellectual creativity, there is a constant momentum towards evolving newer ideas and items.

Though little effort is going into integrating the lowly roadside potter, Devi Prasad feels that some of the enthusiasm generated towards the work of studio potters should be translated to alleviate the lot of the traditional potter as well.

"The government must not let this village art die," he says, "in fact the encouragement should come from the top. Let Rashtrapati Bhavan start using khullars and handis made by traditional craftsmen. Then only will the world see the real excellence of our pottery. And once the traditional karigar is motivated he’ll leave city designers way behind."




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