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Impressions in clay

The ongoing exhibition of `Creations in Terrakotta' at Shrishti Art Gallery reflects the contemporary visual vocabulary of four artists.



ARTISTS & CREATIONS: Laxma Goud (middle), Srinivas Reddy (behind Laxma) and Rohini Reddy (extreme right).

TERRACOTTA SYMBOLISES baked earth - the earth is a primeval source of energy and creation. Therefore, it is not surprising that the most ancient form of artistic expression was terracotta. It may be a fragile medium, but is has been a constant feature of Indian culture and civilisation. It assumed religious connotations too when images made of clay were worshipped. Even today during festival time Ganesha and Durga come alive in clay although they are consecrated only for a limited period of time. As art-historian Nandita Krishna says: "The creation of the image, its limited life span and its destruction, leading to yet another creation of an image, represent the birth, life, death and rejuvenation of all nature. Thus terracotta possess

a unique position as representative of the life cycle itself."

Terracotta is a wonderful medium as the possibilities of expression are endless. From pottery and toys and images, terracotta was used for figurines and images (of warriors as evident in the terracotta warriors of X'ian in China - now a UNESCO world heritage site and aiyyanar deities in TamilNadu and horses of Bankura which are famous).

Many possibilities of the medium can still be explored. Terracottas continue at a functional , religious and at an artistic level where it is given new forms of expression. A medium in which a work of art is visible in a short time, terracotta has captured the imagination of the urbanites given the ethnic revival. The malleability of the clay along with the creative impulse of the artist results in various contemporary forms. The ongoing exhibition at Shrishti Art Gallery of terracotta objects made by four artists, namely, Laxma Goud, Sisir Sahana, Srinivas Reddy and Rohini Reddy is indicative of a `contemporary' language. A common thread binding the works is `heads'. Some of the works in clay are also translated into bronze with each artist displaying about two in the metal.



EARTHY EXPRESSIONS: One of the sculptures.

Laxma Goud's roots in his traditional landscape is amply reflected in his works. His stylised bucolic imagery is evident in his faces of men and women. Replete with finery, the woman (who is almost akin to a goddess) arrests the attention of the viewer. Laxma Goud's dexterous hands create variegated patterns of textures on the heads.

Sisir Sahana, who works with glass nowadays, has tried his hand with clay. Time, nature and its metamorphosis - his concern which is vividly captured in glass, is extended to clay. The `transformation' from simple to complex is indicated through slight distortions - enlarged facial features. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil - the dictum finds a new interpretation - instead of monkeys there are three heads in relief. Another facet of change `violence' too finds representation in some images.

Srinivas Reddy is a skilled sculptor. Through his basic medium - clay, he is able to impart any kind of expression in his heads at times though his form restricts him to go beyond his skill. His expressive heads are surrounded by an irrevocable silence. He has also used the sword symbolising energy/power (associated with Shakti) in a modern context.



CAST BRONZE: Translated from terracotta.

One is tempted to interpret his reliefs bearing the sword in the context of `war' and `violence'. The internal feelings and `turmoil' inside a man is to a certain extent rendered in clay.

For Rohini Reddy, the tree is a metaphor for the woman. Just as the tree gives everything to those seeking from it, so does the woman.

The images of the tree do have some women faces intertwined in them. She also makes a door frame, the different tiles of which have different motifs.



`HEADY' MATTERS: Some of Srinivas Reddy's works. — Photos: P. V. Sivakumar

The exhibits of this show resulted from a terracotta camp conducted by the Shrishti Art Gallery in January. While a few junior artistes too participated, works of the senior ones have been put up for show.

As the name of the gallery symbolises creation, the works too reflect a modern idiom of creation. The show is on till April 18 (between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.).

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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