The Great Kiln

Domus - - CONFETTI -

Like an up-ended ud­der, whose bovine nip­ples squirt smoke in­stead of milk into the skies across Mum­badevi, a hy­dra-mouthed suraahi, an ewer mis­in­ter­preted from writ­ten in­struc­tions put out by the Reay Arts Work­shop, a torso shaped by fire brick, de­flated by grav­ity, its re­sul­tant the shape­less­ness of an odal­isque por­trayed soon af­ter child­birth, a belch born of fires in the stom­ach, it re­mains an ac­knowl­edged em­bar­rass­ment, un­pretty, but func­tional. Func­tion, it seems is the great driver of the com­ing aes­thetic. It is the new age of util­i­tar­ian ex­plo­ration whose in­heren­cies call to be tweezed out and laid bare for ed­i­fi­ca­tion, and profit. The ceram­ics mas­ter holds him­self as prece­dent, pro­gen­i­tor of a school soon to sub­sume the sa­lon into a re­tail boutique. More is more. To the east, in­com­ing ves­sels align prows with va­porous poly­chrome col­umns twist­ing Berniniesque, nor’-nor’- west mak­ing chro­matic vari­a­tions with potas­sium per­chlo­rate, zinc chlo­ride and white phos­phors against the back­ground of the Satanic Mills, uni­form smok­ers of Tus­can gray that spray ver­ti­cally from lenticels and com­min­gle to a wash. Cylin­dri­cal leeches pop­u­late the first recla­ma­tions that be­trayed the is­lands and made them cap­tive. Bo­sun’s mates cheer; they veer to the vapours rather than make for the un­trust­wor­thy tree in front of the Town Hall (or the Prongs light­house, still in­com­plete). Un­like the burn­ing of hay and dung the school smokes re­li­ably, a Ha­bana cigar ex­haled in per­pe­tu­ity, by night and by day, such is the in­flux of busi­ness that Wonderland per­pet­u­ates. Just one damn or­der af­ter an­other, Terry be praised! Up­stairs, be­yond the large win­dows the pain­ters’ class silently curses heat that has leached the Bom­bay hu­mid­ity, oils crack even as they are slapped on can­vas. Mar­ble, freshly sup­plied from Naples loses sheen to toxic ca­resses of cobalt car­bon­ate that fixes the glaze or to opaci­fiers like zir­co­nium ox­ide that give hu­man sized urns their cabaret bulge so prized by fin de siè­cle aris­toc­racy.

Left: A pho­to­graph of Christo­pher London’s book Bom­bay Gothic, open to the page fea­tur­ing the rear view of the JJ School of Art, ac­cord­ing to Bri­tish ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Burges’ de­sign pro­posal (1866)

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