For almost two years B. R. Pandit’s pottery studio has been abuzz with ideas and activity as the Pandit family have worked on a new body of pottery for their 2010 exhibition at Cymroza Art Gallery. Cymroza and the Pandit family share a special bond as the Pandits have earlier created exclusive collections for exhibitions here. This fifth exhibition is another feast for the eyes.
It was in October 2002 that B.R. Pandit, respectfully called Panditji, and his elder son Abhay held their first exhibition at Cymroza. In that exhibition Panditji’s exquisite pots with flowing lines, stunning copper red reduction glazes and muted soda fired blue glazes won many hearts as did Abhay’s vases in strong lines and mottled colours.
In 2004, Cymroza held a solo exhibition of Abhay’s work showcasing the young potter’s striking blue wire-cut platters, wire-cut pots, and slim tall matt-red and blue-gray bottles inspired by Mumbai’s seascape and skyline.
In 2006 the entire family- Panditji, his wife Devki, their sons Abhay and Shailesh, and Abhay’s wife Khushboo, presented their array of works much to the delight of art lovers.
In 2008, once again, the entire family came together to present fresh shapes, forms and glazes, each one excelling in their individual signature style.
For the 2010 exhibition, the Pandit family has created this wonderful body of work while sharing ideas and effort. At times, in an easy spirit of sharing and nurturing creativity and bonding, they have informally worked on different aspects of the process of creating pottery making it more of a group effort in some works; some works are completely individual efforts. Typically Devki ensuring the clay’s malleability is perfect, Abhay throwing pots and platters and working on surface textures, Shailesh throwing a large vase, Khushboo burnishing a work, Panditji glazing and firing the pots in kilns to bring out their best. This effort has brought alive a rare picture, that of a family of studio potters.
While the family has enjoyed the hundreds of hours in the studio, it is to our pleasure that we have before us this feast of pottery, speaking of their efforts and their enjoyment of their new journey. Panditji, true to his mark, has joyfully explored his beloved copper-red reduction glaze that has steadily stretched his repertoire of shades of red from muted matt to shimmering scarlet. In his works here, he once again shows his mastery of reducing the oxygen content in the kiln to coax the copper glaze to yield red; daubs of green and pink add interest to some of the rich red skins of his pots.
Panditji unveils a surprise - like a new gemstone in a treasure box. It presents itself in the form of a green crystalline double wall glaze bowl. Look closely at its softly shimmering surface and you’ll see an exquisite matrix of crystals - like those geologists discover in cavities in the Earth. And this creation -and others of its genre - is the fabulous result of his skill and patience in experimenting with new glazes and exacting firing schedules that slowly allow crystals of these exquisite shapes and sizes to flower on pots while in the kiln.
Abhay continued to craft vases, pots and platters and presents works that appear as free standing, perfectly balanced sculptures. Always inspired by Mumbai, the sea, sacred stones smeared with vermillion, and myriad images he sees of people and places as he commutes, his works have long spoken in the language of lines. Yet, now we see the potter moving on from the linear and geometric lines- that he had been exploring through different techniques - to break new ground. His works appear like a dry river bed, cracked and parched, yet sometime with a flush of algae speaking of renewal and regeneration. Lines stretch across the surface of pots like an intricate web speaking of connectivity. Another appears like an aerial view of the Earth itself, its spread of water and land. And yet another bears different colours on both sides; one side is brown like the scorched summer soil and the other side brushed with light blue and green like the quenched earth after the first rains.
Within these features and textures you discover that Abhay has been inspired from the same fundamental source: the line. Yet that basic one-dimensional object has now been broken! And the surface of the clay platter and the vase are now like a canvas and glazes like a box of paints in his hands as he moves from the realm of craft to art creating and colouring these broken lines.
Panditji, Abhay and Khushboo have worked on a collection of raku smoke-fired pots and platters. As if painting clay with smoke- like generations of Indian potters have so naturally done while firing their pots- they have steered smoke to seep into their painstakingly burnished, bisque fired and glazed white stone-ware pots. And as they chip away the glaze -that peels off like an eggshell after the hot smoke-fired pots are plunged in cold water- they take in the play of smoke on the surface of lines they had earlier created. Some stand out as strong black lines on the white surface, and others more muted and subtle like a fine grey tracery exploring neutral ground.
Khushboo has created a collection of almost canvas like smoke-fired works, that can be hung on the walls to look dramatic, as they come alive and almost speak to you.
Large pots by Shailesh, whose forte is to craft these pots with strong lines and character, and delicate pots with petal-like flared mouths by Devkiji convey the versatility of the family.
So it is, as we see and soak in the beauty of these works, we also partake in the journey of the family of potters that has occupied them for the past two years. Through their works we know of their love for clay, their respect for the elements and traditions, and the possibilities that they have explored through their labour, creativity and beliefs.
The Pandit family has evolved with a mixture of talent, determination and strength as a fmily of very talented and dedicated potters, with a great deal of promise. From the early days, Panditji and his wife set out on their journey together, and set their potter’s wheel into motion, their talents and determination carried them through good and bad times. Abhay and Shailesh grew up immersed in the hustle and bustle of a busy pottery, artistically moulding bonsai pots, tiles and one-off works and have embraced the world of ceramics with enthusiasm focusing on the development of art pots. Khushboo came into the family as Abhay’s wife, and was encouraged to develop her very visible artistic talents. Her own aspirations and drive helped create a strong family unit that is constantly moving forward and innovating.
Evident through each ceramic piece is a reflection of the individual’s style linked with skills and creativity lent by other family members.
Their pots come in many guises, from very simple forms, with plain glazes and surfaces, to complex ones, with intricate textures, patterns and colours revealing a a striking unity between of the elements. This is an exhibition of such masterpieces.
ABHAY PANDIT “Clay is the only material, so plastic in nature, that almost anything can be formed out of your hand. Clay is so sensitive to touch that it responds immediately to your action. Anything is possible to make, given that you know the medium clay well”. Since his education background is of a graphic designer, his thought process starts in visualizing the concept. Once that is done, he quickly sketches the form and shape that will do justice to the idea. The next hurdle would be to transform this two dimensional sketch into the real three dimensional form or shape into clay from paper. The path to sculpture in clay is gradual one. He always wanted to make clay sculptures. It is recently that he began to climb that ladder. His sculptures are based on fossils that he has seen in the museums or of of leaves, tree trunks, fish skeletons and the pattern of water currents left by the running water on the surface of the earth. This energy of sea also causes erosion and his work contains traces of textures and effects left by erosion created by the high and low tide of the sea. His ceramic work is all balanced on one point at the bottom to the pedestal by a rod. Some sculptures are pillow-shaped to give him a nice canvass to make his patterns of lines. The form is not really round nor in symmetry or even if it is in symmetry, the working of lines create an illusion – a false depth or distance. The coloured lines trying to run from thick to thin at some horizons is like the network of reflection of golden orange sunlight kissing the innumerable waves of the turquoise blue sea in the evening sunset. He tries to capture that moment on his canvas of clay into a sculptural form, where the sculptural form is the body colored in turquoise blue with the green of sea and the gold bronze line forms the dressing, hence forming an optical illusion.
B R Pandit
Brahmdeo Ram Pandit was born on 3rd March, 1949 in Boram Bagh village in Bihar. Descended from a long line of potters with an ancestral family who has assisted priests at the Shankar Bhagwan Mandir. His grandfather, Murti Pandit, bartered clay vessels for daily use to the British government in return for rice, wheat and agricultural produce. Life in those days was hard and busy but peaceful and content. On the other hand his son, Ram along with his wife Dahini, found it extremely difficult to bring up two boys in an age where metal like aluminium and iron alloys were fast replacing clay pots. Income had to be supplemented with cultivating the family land, which was still insufficient to afford even the basic necessities.
The role of the potter, his respect and dignity, diminished in direct proportion to the demand for pottery, thus rendering him a lower caste and rather than an indispensable craftsman. Many young potters, losing their self-esteem, abandoned their craft and chose alternate professions.
Amid this era of low self-esteem and lack of respect for potters, rose Brahmdeo Ram Pandit who decided to revive the vocation by kindling a love and admiration for creativity, and inculcating a sense of pride in our cultural heritage.
Young Brahmadeo, who had already acquired and developed the skill from his father during his school days, took up this vocation and made it his mission to bring back the past glory and status of the craft of mittkam.
It is little over 40 years that he made his long journey to Mumbai to become a true master in pottery.
His mastery over the medium is just not about his creative depths, but more about his unending exploitation of the elements. The subtle play of the hues and the finesse are more of his trademark. Much like him his pots are unpretentious. But his enthusiasm to embrace universal ideas is so strong that he doesn’t feel the need to identify or lean towards a particular school of thought.
Glazing and firing are what he loves the most. Fire, water, air, earth…all mingle in nothing less than the celestial space of his kilns. The results are magical –blues, greens, coppers, golds, reds - the interplay of colours and the nuances….even a discerning eye can something miss. Suddenly a pot with a form, acquires content and context. It is the sensibility that appeals to you in his art form.
Like a rolling stone that never gathers moss, he proceeds to throw pots and the wheel dances to the rhythm of his hands.