A deep-seated love for all manner of art influences the current work of ceramist and painter, Adil Writer, whose solo exhibition “The White Rabbit” opens at The Habitat Centre’s Visual Arts Gallery, New Delhi, today.
What are dreams? Dreams are the sky-lit studios where we sketch the fluid outlines of the world as we might render it if we were freed from the laws of physics and biology which we must obey, and from the shackles of convention and morality to which we more or less surrender ourselves. Dreams are the archives where we rifle through the images, languages, and sensations of our everyday reality and creatively reorganise our perceptions at the service of non-ordinary logics we do not even know we have. Suddenly this goes with that, this action leads to that consequence, this colour compliments that one, and it all makes sense in a new way.
Artists and writers are dreamers for sure, blessed and cursed people who give birth to forms that might otherwise remain hidden below the psyche’s surface.
Adil Writer was born into this tribe a while ago and has spent the last several years dancing around the fire of this identity to various rhythms. Now it seems that in the last year he has passed through his rite du passage and is ready to announce to the world and to himself that he is a full-time, wholly committed dreamer.
Dreams tend to be associated with lofty aspirations, but while Writer does reference his private sense of spirituality without inhibition, it is less about exalting and more about giving us access to the shadowed textures and crystalline hues of his contradictory and highly post-modern consciousness. He lets us feel the steam rising from the hot asphalt of a Mumbai street after a light unexpected rain, just as he bathes us in the unsettlingly pure, white light of Auroville’s Matrimandir meditation chamber, as evidenced in the soft, sensual “Dream Pillow” series. What might seem a cherub’s visage at a glance suddenly reveals itself as anointed with a swash of scarlet kumkum, which locates the third eye. And unlikely casual encounters foment conversations of existential import, as in when Sri Aurobindo, an Indian philosopher, parlays with Led Zeppelin.
If anything is to characterise this enticingly tactile cacophony it is one word: promiscuous. With abandon, Writer declares his polyamorous right to love architecture, sculpture, photography, and painting equally alongside the ceramic work with which he seemed monogamously involved for so long. There is an order to his multiplicitous sentiments, however; the invitation to his creative orgy is engraved with texts revealed to him by friends and associates who have become playmates in his deliciously sensuous pursuits. Writer says he does not write original thoughts on his works. He elaborates, “If at all, they are scribbles or gibberish, drawing a viewer into a conversation with the piece. I do use a lot of text in my works, be this original writings from friends, lyrics of the bards of the 20th century like Sting, Cohen, Pink Floyd…”
What is one to make of the consorting of vertical lines and curvaceous celadon, of the matchmaking between found objects and fanciful, functionless forms?
A testament to this are his abstract celadon teapot, liquid enough to be kept in a saucer, lest they flow off the tabletop. Or the “Show of Hands” series, variously uncomfortable to look at, yet presenting a glimmer of hope with fingers crossed. The key to this collection is a simple answer: make of it what you wish or nothing at all. The geographies of this imagination have no maps and Writer liberates one to navigate at will. If there is a destination on the horizon, it is nothing more than to realise that you might not have to buy the Stairway to Heaven if you are willing to barter it for a dream.
Shanti Pillai is an Indian-American performance artist, dancer, and academic.