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Mysterious Terracotta

It is said that every things goes back to Mitti, in the form of ‘Panchtatva’, the terracotta. According to Indian Mythology, 'Panchtatva' represents the five elements from which life evolves. Hence the importance of Panch Tatva's.... as TERRACOTTA. It is said that the terracotta art, with its long and continuous history of the preceding centuries, has imbibed such ideals which are based upon a thorough and explicit understanding of the human form. Clay craft is probably the earliest of man’s creations and marks his coming of age. In the contest of the contemporary art world, where the languages have crossed all the boundaries with the medium of expression, it’s a need of time to breathe life into this forgotten medium of Terracotta. Terracotta craft came via Persia, when Mongal Chengiz Khan had conquered China in AD 1212.There are numerous references to earthenware, Terracotta has been a way of expression since the early traces in history of Terracotta, female figurines which were uncovered by archaeologists in excavations of Mohenjo-daro (3000-1500 BC). Nearly five millennia later, India is still rich in her terracotta and pottery traditions, many of which have their roots in prehistory. Till today, contemporary artists have been trying to make a mark in history again. Though terracotta always has taken a back seat, it remains rooted in the change of art scenarios. For the visual artists, it always remains an urge to express with terracotta. Whether it’s a small child trying to understand the smell of it or even the grown up, figuring the images of fantasies, terracotta served the purpose of every individual world of expressions. Although, the attempts are being made all over the world, it’s one more effort from NIV Art Centre to revive the ancient history in the contemporary art scene in India. It’s their endless support for its artists to sustain in time of failing economy. Artists have been given full freedom to express and explore creatively in their chosen medium. One such young artist is RAHUL MODAK from West Bengal, who has been working in NIV Art Centre for the last couple of months, in order to express and experiment in the ancient medium of terracotta. Rahul Modak is a poet of clay, essaying simplicity in his life and restricts his functioning to the essentials of earth, stone and fire alone. He has endeavoured to refine the forms over the past decade moulding clay manually into excellent objects. NIV Art Centre has been ideal for expirementing his techniques and sharing his knowledge with the children at NIV Vidya Mandir. Starting with the interactive session of terracotta with small kids of NIV Vidya Mandir and further coordinating with 16 women artists from Delhi, Rahul shows the abilities of understanding the chosen material. His temperament of working with different age group is soft and moulded with a creative urge. Rahul had understood the psychology of different age groups so as to give justice to the medium of terracotta. Terracotta in itself is mysterious just like a child or a woman. It’s simple but difficult in nature but when you understand it one can even built up towers of dreams which we see in the temple of Bengal. So it makes me wonder: for that matter, if terracotta is so fragile and mysterious enough to keep the artists away in the contemporary context, then how come the civilization existed and lived for centuries? Therefore, an attempt is made by us to revive and bring terracotta in the main stream of the visual art language. I invited, rather requested, a few women artists to participate in the workshop. The focus was to involve artists from different levels and different mediums to come and explore the playfulness of Terracotta. Sixteen well-known women artists: ALKA RAGHUVANSHI, ANUPAM SUD, ARPANA CAUR, DURGA KAINTHOLA, ELA MUKHERJEE, GOGI SAROJ PAL, KANCHAN CHANDER, KAVITA NAYAR, LATIKA KATT, MANISHA GAWADE, NUPUR KUNDU, POOJA IRANNA, SEEMA KOHLI, SHIVANI AGGARWAL, SHRUTI GUPTA CHANDRA, and VINITA KARIM from Delhi attempted to understand the nuances and the mystery in terracotta. The very participation of all these enterprising women artists gave the event and medium its due space in the present contemporary art and high level of eclecticism. I am sure their participation and contribution in the three-day workshop is a significant attempt to revive the medium, as it will throw a challenge open for contemporary artist. I express my special thanks and appreciation to all friends and well-known veteran artists. Rahul has successfully taken terracotta sculptures and their installation to a higher level of contemporary Indian art based on imagery and iconography. In his modest way, Rahul has engaged himself wholeheartedly in the processes of making, thinking, and living. This humble but contemplative artist’s creations convey his message succinctly. Standing out amidst his work are the leaves formed from clay, unglazed and fired in down to earth kilns, with smoke and flame used to colour them. Rahul has nurtured these aesthetic elements further at the NIV Art Centre. The solo show and a group activity are the outcome of different exercises with school kids and a further workshop with few eminent visual contemporary Indian artists. These creative hands would try this soft clay of terracotta and bring out the beauty in visual language. As Rahul himself quote a proverb “as you mould, you will get the desired shape. It is true in the shape of clay modelling and also in the life of a child…” RAJAN SHRIPAD FULARI is a visual arist, curator and print studio incharge with Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. May, 2013
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