Cel­e­brat­ing Ce­ram­ics

The Fourth ASNA Clay Tri­en­nial opens new vis­tas on an an­cient art form.

Southasia - - Contents - By Sam­ina Khan

The Fourth ASNA Clay Tri­en­nial was a cause for much ex­cite­ment among artists, both emerg­ing and es­tab­lished. Touted as one of the big­gest art events in the his­tory of Pak­istan, the tri­en­nial opened with a re­cep­tion on Jan­uary 11 at the VM Art Gallery in Karachi. Around 50 artists from 16 coun­tries had the op­por­tu­nity to dis­play their work at the Tri­en­nial that ended on Jan­uary 31.

The open­ing cer­e­mony kicked off with She­herezade Alam, one of Pak­istan’s finest ce­ramists, per­form- ing a short skit ti­tled ‘Mitti Walay

Haath’ on the art of pot­tery-mak­ing. Us­ing an imag­i­nary pot, she ex­plained in some de­tail how a pot­ter fash­ions ‘mitti’ [earth] into ob­jects of all shapes and sizes. While Alam’s ef­forts were ad­mirable, they may not have hit the mark. In fact, Me­her Afroz, one of the or­gan­is­ers, pointed out that the youth to­day may not be able to un­der­stand the per­for­mance be­cause they were so far re­moved from pot­tery - an art that dates back thou­sands of years in the sub­con­ti­nent.

Ni­ilo­fur Far­rukh, an­other ASNA cu­ra­tor and or­gan­iser, also spoke on the oc­ca­sion, ex­plain­ing how ASNA came into be­ing and its evo­lu­tion over the years. Both artists and or­gan­is­ers lamented the mar­gin-

al­i­sa­tion of ce­ram­ics as an art form in Pak­istan and said that one of the ob­jec­tives of the event was to help con­nect the youth with in­dige­nous art forms.

Over the next few days, artists spoke about their work and de­fended ce­ram­ics as art through en­light­en­ing short pre­sen­ta­tions and Q and A ses­sions. For in­stance, in Ne­hal Rach’s ‘Within’, one saw the rel­e­vance of phi­los­o­phy to art. In Reyaz Badrud­din’s ‘Cup of Tea’ and Sarah Sul­li­van’s ‘Rem­nants’, the au­di­ence learnt how to see be­yond mere func­tion­al­ity of ev­ery­day ob­jects and ex­plore the aes­thet­ics.

Par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy was an ob­ser­va­tion made by an art stu­dent that elab­o­rated on how kings and princes aided in the marginal­i­sa­tion of ce­ram­ics by pa­tro­n­is­ing painters. She stressed that by com­mis­sion­ing paint­ings in­stead of pots, art gal­leries


had only taken the place of kings of yes­ter­day. The pan­elists par­tially agreed with this as­sess­ment, ex­plain­ing that it was not merely the art gal­leries that were re­spon­si­ble but also the peo­ple who had put this trend in place be­cause they de­cided what should be bought. Many also ex­plained how they had been drawn to ce­ram­ics dur­ing their early years and how their work had grown over time. From post-mod­ernism’s im­pact on ce­ram­ics to ‘an­gry art’, ce­ramists dis­cussed all pos­si­ble as­pects of pot­tery.

The Tri­en­nial also won the hearts of the In­dian ce­ramist, Ela Mukhar­jee. “We ce­ramists are a world apart from bor­ders de­fined by politi­cians,” she said, adding that “as artists, we are equal and a coun­try of our own.”

Mean­while, the di­rec­tor of VM Gallery, Rif­fat Alvi, hoped that the Tri­en­nial would draw the masses away from all the vi­o­lence in the city. “Peo­ple may hold all kinds of long marches, but we, the artists, will touch the peo­ple of Pak­istan,” she said. A lot of this vi­o­lence, she added, could be at­trib­uted to the sup­pres­sion of tal­ent. “You have to al­low peo­ple to ex­plore their nat­u­ral abil­i­ties for them to re­main hu­man,” she said.

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