Common Ground: Second edition of Indian Ceramics Triennale puts a fresh spin on Terracotta art

From patterned pots and cisterns to ceramic bird skeletons, the ongoing Indian Ceramics Triennale in Delhi is on till March 31, 2024 at the capital’s newest cultural hub Arthshila, Okhla.

Attended by  groups of children from various schools, a sprawling gallery at Arthshila’s new space caught the green minds as they dripped blue ink onto handmade clay tiles, closely observing the imbibity as it took intriguing shapes.

“The Triennale presents the works of over 40 artists, Common Ground is a metaphorical and literal exploration of this ground upon which we meet,” reads the curatorial note.

Work of artist Birender Kumar Yadav documents the lives of migrant brick kiln workers in the city of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.

‘Lost and Found’ – Contemporary ceramic artists Raju Sutar and Rajesh Kulkarni collaborated with indigenous potter communities of Warak in Maharashtra and Kutch in Gujarat for the art initiative, Creative Dignity, to present a set of clay utensils and objects.

For the artists, the brothers are art and craft. They wanted to bring the craft of these potters from the villages to present them in art spaces.

Presenting the impact of unbridled urbanisation on the lives of birds, artist Deepak Kumar from Bihar-now settled in Greater Noida created a five-foot-high skeleton of a bird, made with ceramic, hangs from the ceiling. The curtains of the glass wall behind the work are intentionally left open, and right next door, the construction of a building is in full swing, in real time.

According to Kumar, his drawing on stone mounted on the wall, which presents a dismembered bird trapped in the lines of an intricate blueprint of a city, is thought-provoking.

Focusing on sustainable living, the exhibition includes functional objects like pots and cisterns made by artisans from villages across the country to more ‘gallery installations’ by national and international artists, reminding us of the innate closeness with mud.

‘Works in terracotta’ – A set of Kachchhi (Gujarat) terracotta pots of various sizes and shapes, with intricate patterns. Made by the younger generation Kumbhar potters, some of whom had gone to Dubai for over 17 years and then came back to make these traditional pots again.

Indian artist Awdhesh Tamrakar revisits his origins in the Thathera community of metalsmiths by creating a visual history of their erstwhile 19th-century abode, Pancham Nagar, in northern Madhya Pradesh.

In a work from his series, A Land of Silent Echoes, Tamrakar creates an effective map of the spaces his ancestors inhabited, invoking their craft in his use of brass and mild steel on tile, and also their presence, through the topography of natural elements.

The Triennale’s first edition, Breaking Ground, showcased at Jaipur’s Jawahar Kala Kendra in 2018, sought to establish a platform for the presentation of contemporary ceramics.

Some structures are thotuoigly rustic by design, like the bithooras, intricately sculpted towers of cow dung patties that serve as fuel stores in rural communities. The bithoora on display is a collaboration among the Ugandan sculptor Lilian Nabulime, British artist Andrew Burton, and Hema Devi and Pinky Devi, who both come from dairy farming communities bordering Delhi.

Apart from Indian artists, the South Korean artist Yeesookyung shows a 2023 work from her series Translated Vase (2002-), a transmogrified porcelain sculpture pieced together from remnants of traditional Korean pottery.

The Triennale’s first edition, Breaking Ground was showcased at Jaipur’s Jawahar Kala Kendra in 2018 to establish a platform for the presentation of contemporary ceramics.

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