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