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The sun in a platter

The morning will surely come by Priya Sundaravalli.

The morning will surely come by Priya Sundaravalli.  

At the new gallery of InKo Centre, the inaugural exhibition Ceramic Connect showcases the works of 28 artists from Korea and India. There is a basket made of porcelain modules and delicately woven with wire by Kim JinKyoung from Korea, who has also co-ordinated the exhibition. There is also a tall, wood-fired vase with eager vertical stripes around the flared mouth by senior ceramic artist Deborah Smith from Auroville. A pleasing array of crafted lamps in animal shapes tempt like sugar candy while an incense burner in the shape of a teapot with many spouts titled Cosmos2, draws on a variety of rituals. While the Korean work is entrenched in craft, derived as definitive forms, often nostalgic about the world of animals, everyday objects and childhood reminiscences, the Indian artists explore textures and conceptual ideations, evident, for instance in P.R.Daroz’s Sea Bed – crusty and fossilised in blues, greens and whites. I am drawn to a shimmering disc set in ultramarine blue as if torn out of some volcanic explosion to become a jagged sun on the wall. On close examination - and you have to get really close – you see that there are nails embedded and zillions of gold threads criss-crossing. Priya Sundaravalli from Auroville says, “There are 108 brass nails. I am really caught up with 108 as a sacred number.”

Sundaravalli was in Korea for a residency at the Clayarch Gimhae Museum, a leader in the field of architectural ceramics. “I was the only foreigner there," she tells me. She could not speak the language and one may call it poetic justice that her work grew out of this silence. Smatterings of verse broke through her imposed vipaasana when Sundaravalli discovered Tagore’s Gitanjali translated into Korean. Title 19, If Thou Speakest Not sparked the title for her piece - “ The morning will surely come…” and it continues -“the darkness will vanish/and thy voice pour down/ in golden streams/ breaking through the sky.”

Despite the language barrier, Priya says, “The Koreans are warm people of the earth.” I am curious about the Indian connect. Dr.Kim Yang-Shik is the Chairperson of the Indian Art Museum in Seoul and Priya tells me there are older ties from the past. “The people of Gimhae believe an Ayodhya princess travelled with an entire contingent in a sea fleet to marry a Korean prince, over 2000 years ago. They celebrate this connection every year in Busan, South Korea.” According to legend, the Princess who married King Kim Su-ro of the Kingdom of Garak came to be known as Queen Heo Hwang-ok. Clay is a pliant medium, yet it requires skill and process to yield it in the many shapes that populate the gallery. Gouged, cut out, shaped, sliced or made in bits, the marvel of clay is that it somehow makes us relate to the soil, reminding us of our closeness to the earth and the human touch. The allure of ceramic objects is how they convey these deep impressions made on them by hands. Sundaravalli studied ceramic art in New Mexico with Felipe Ortega, a Jicarilla Apache who is also a medicine man. Like her findings of Tagore in Korea, Sundaravalli felt a tug at her heartstrings in New Mexico. “I discovered Auroville in America,” she says. Talking about her Indian upbringing, she recollects playing with coconut shells with their round eyes and mouths. “We pretended they are gods.” The same kind of reverence for clay guides her today, shapes arising from acts of devotion. Sundaravalli’s delight at having “limitless freedom” to make expressions is surely true for all those who play with and nurture clay, evident in the diverse and unbounded forms at this show, each a surprise in its own way.

(Chennai Canvas links art to design and culture through an inside look at the city.)

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 5:29:45 PM |

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