‘Apposite Possibilities', the exhibition on at Vernissage Art Gallery is, as the title suggests, apposite, as far as the artists and the works go. The works of two artists, Parul Shah and Sushma Anand, are on show. The former draws and the latter is a ceramic artist.
Mumbai-based Parul Shah uses the rather unconventional dry pastels. As part of the exhibition Parul conducted a drawing workshop.At the end the workshop she confesses that it was the first time she had ‘taught' the use of dry pastels. The session had a few very attentive students and she took them through the nuances of using dry pastels. She gives valuable tips on how not to cram a drawing/paintings with every detail that is perceived. She advocates minimalism, and ‘keeping it simple.'
The medium is light like water colours and it is that quality that draws her to it, she says. Her drawings are all women, and the reason? “Women are the most beautiful beings, worth drawing. Men? What is beautiful about them that can be expressed?” The subject of Parul's works on show therefore is the woman, her various moods and forms. There is definitely a lightness to her works, an almost ethereal quality. There is almost a photographic quality to the works, like those soft focus photographs actually. The works bring to mind Keats' famous ‘a thing of beauty' line . John Fernandes is her inspiration and the self-taught artist says she has attempted to break out of that mould and carve her own niche.
If there is the lightness of Parul's works, Sushma Anand's works exude solidity. Sushma calls herself a ‘ceramic artist'. “Clay is my canvas and glazes are my colours.” There is the unmistakable ‘Pondicherry' stamp on her works. After graduating in Fine Arts from Stella Maris College, Chennai she did a basic course in ceramics before joining Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry. She trained under the legendary Ray Meeker, besides Deborah Smith. The credit for all, or most of the stoneware with the ‘made in Pondicherry' label goes to Ray and Deborah.
Inspired by nature
That experience with Ray and Deborah, first as student and later teaching pottery, ranks very high on her list. Her works on show are inspired by nature – trees, ferns, leaves and other fauna. Most of them collected during her five-month stint at Kodaikanal last year. She also trained under Amrita Dhawan in Kodaikanal.
Murals, plates, platters, and scrolls are among the pieces on show. There is even a quaint ceramic two deck tiffin carrier, from a previous exhibition. The plates, platters etc have different glazes which give them various tones and hues, some of them have imprints of ferns and leaves on them, which she places on the pieces before she fires them. There are a few wall pieces (stylised flowers, leaves etc) but there are three which are particularly striking: A mural of a kathakali face, in ceramic tones, a mural (Sushma's take on the Kerala mural) of two frogs and ‘Lotus pond with koi carp' which have the feel of having been wrought/crafted with hand. Sushma compares pottery to baking – making (like the batter/dough), baking, glazing…unfortunately no eating.
Ceramics vs. terracotta
Terracotta is a familiar medium as opposed to ceramics. But Sushma is a patient teacher as she takes pains to explain the difference between working with ceramics and terracotta. If the mere mention of ceramic pottery sends alarm bells ringing, then you needn't worry. It is sturdier than terracotta, it is baked at temperatures upwards of 1300 degrees Centigrade, while terracotta is baked at around 800 degrees Centigrade. And terracotta retains its porosity while ceramic doesn't (absorb water). Sushma has a gas kiln at her studio, which she uses to fire her works. Apart from these works, her creations include decorative pieces, free standing sculptures, utility ware and mosaics.
Having studied Fine Arts, she has been exposed to different forms of artistic expression, a paintbrush would have been easier to wield. She agrees. “But I love doing something where I use my hands, the feel of the clay for that matter, working at the potter's wheel…I enjoy it.” And the pleasure that Sushma derives out of her work shows.
The show concludes on April 30.