Impressive looking figurines and decorative products in terracotta epitomise the creative talent of rural artisans and are much sought after at the good old Dilli Haat but contemporary Indian artists are reluctant to pursue the medium.

Bearing this in mind, curator Rajan Fulari is now putting up a month-long exhibition at NIV Art Centre in Neb Sarai here beginning this coming Sunday in which contemporary women artists and one male artist have created a wide array of terracotta products. “Unfortunately, terracotta has been neglected by contemporary artists because it is a fragile medium. Art connoisseurs too are interested in art products which are durable. But how come the civilisation existed and lived for centuries? Therefore an attempt is being made to revive and bring terracotta into the mainstream of the visual art language. I requested 16 well known women artists to participate in a workshop. The focus was on involving artists from different levels and different mediums to come and explore the playfulness of terracotta. It must be remembered that terracotta has its own significance and aesthetic appeal.”

Terracotta craft came to India via Persia, when Mongol invader Genghis Khan conquered China. Rajan says there are numerous references which suggest that terracotta has been a way of expression since early history. “Female figurines were uncovered by archaeologists during excavations at Mohenjo-daro at Sindh in Pakistan. India is still rich in her terracotta and pottery traditions, many of which have their roots in prehistory. Though terracotta always has taken a back seat, it remains rooted in the change of art scenarios.”

In this exhibition, most of the products have been created by Rahul Modak, who did a residency with the curator. He also coordinated a workshop in which the women artists participated.

Hailing from West Bengal, Rahul has been working at Niv Art Centre for the past couple of months in order to experiment at the ancient medium of terracotta. Describing Rahul as a “poet of clay”, Rajan says he epitomises simplicity and has focused largely on the refinement of the forms, working with his hands to mould shapeless lumps of clay into beautiful objects.  

Rahul says since he likes exploring this medium in a contemporary way he enjoyed coordinating the workshop. “Some of the women are leading artists but have never worked in clay. However, they had encouraging words for me.”

According to Prof. Latika Katt, who was heading the sculpture department at the Jamia Millia Islamia, she has always worked in terracotta because it gives her the earthy feeling. Latika has produced five works based on nature for the upcoming exhibition. “This workshop was productive as women artists who had previously never worked in clay were given an opportunity to create artistic impressions. I have been a sculptor. Though terracotta is not rewarding, I have created products in it. Rural artisans create a wide range of products in terracotta. Even contemporary artists explore terracotta to express themselves. Terracotta has limitations of colour and is not rewarding.”