The Garden of Eden
The multiple technicalities inherent in pottery and ceramics has historically placed the medium in the domain of crafts, and it is in the 20th century, outside industrial production, that ceramics found a new role in studio pottery. It was an art practice based on new ideologies, parallel to modernism based on truth to materials, individual artistic expression, originality, unity of form and decoration and aesthetic freedom. Studio pottery interrogated the problematic word ‘craft’ which has proved to be such a battleground for practitioners in the hegemonic discourses of the visual arts and aligns the ceramist to a wider field of cultural production, not limited by the medium employed. Locative in a new space of formal and conceptual experimentation, studio pottery subverted taboos against clay as a sculptural medium, perhaps marginalized due to its humble origins and today, no longer confined to the decorative arts or other craft categories, ceramists explore an unlimited range of influences, styles, and ideas, engaging in an inventive dialogue with the pottery and ceramic tradition.
Vinod Daroz, a prominent ceramist, moves beyond the stereotypes attributed to the medium, particularly the idea of form following function, displaying a conceptual and aesthetic maturity by formulating a language that takes the form beyond its function. The idiosyncrasies of clay open up multiple possibilities for the artist, who derives his inspiration from Nature and its organic forms, while exploring the philosophical dimensions of the act of creation in its mythology and cosmology. The narratives of creation expressed how humans related themselves in context to the natural history of the universe, and the ceramics of Vinod are expressive of this history, a way of being in the world, delving into humanity’s origin and destiny.
The permutations and combinations of a myriad forms and delicate glazes, reveals an individual sensibility in complete control of his medium and a curiosity for art historical imagery and philosophy gives his work a unique edge as a ceramist. Vinod visited Kanchipuram and the gopurams, shikharas, garbagrihas and lingam/yoni forms in South Indian temples triggered in him questions of creationism, sexuality, sublimity and spirituality. The Temple Series emerged out of this intensely spiritual experience, which Vinod differentiates from religion. This series is not just about the possibilities of the form, but also about the expression of peace, experienced through the form via the white, translucent nature of the body, associative with faith and the meditative energy of God.
As Vinod articulates, “My most interesting observation while working on the Temple Series was that there are so many possible ways of exploiting one subject through different clay bodies. The use of slip cast porcelain enabled me to achieve the desired repetitive patterns. It has been an interesting challenge to incorporate a clay body successfully in my work, keeping its industrial characteristics intact. This series of work focuses on the creative life forces of the universe”.
As an extension of the Temple Series, comes a body of new works: ‘The Garden of Eden’, which is representative of the symbology of the lingam and the yoni, a sculptural and aesthetical explication of creationism, imperative in Hindu temple iconography. A major visual reference in these works is a rock at Hampi, which is carved with repetitive ‘lingam’ forms, and leaves an optical impression on the viewer. Popular religious practices in Hinduism, such as the use of the yellow and red thread in various contexts, also merge in abstractionist forms, in lines and colour contrasted against the three-dimensionality of lingam configurations.
Vinod contextualizes, “ These red and yellow threads are sometimes tied around the wrist as a blessing, or a protective force, sometimes tied around trunks of holy trees asking to grant wishes; it is the symbol of the bond between gurus and shishyas. In all its forms, it is to me an indication of faith.”
Other visual references are murals in Tibetan monasteries with repetitions of Buddha figures, mandalas, which have meditative connotations, and also traditional Indian handlooms, its weaves, prints and recurring geometric designs, influencing the artist in a myriad ways. This series can also be linked to Christian mythologies of creation, especially that of Adam and Eve in Eden, as described in the Book of Genesis. The fallen angel, Satan, is represented in repetitive human faces with horns juxtaposed against symbols of masculinity and femininity, such as bananas, golden flowers and cut apples.
In formal terms, what is most remarkable in these current works is how Vinod articulates a playful exploration of geometrical form and variable planar colours. The parallel representation of realistic forms and abstractionist patterns focus on the perceptual aspects of art, which result both from the illusion of movement and the interaction of color relationships; art historically, this can be traced to a tangential influence of Op Art, which was derived from the constructivist practices of the Bauhaus. Op art is a perceptual experience related to how vision functions, stemming from a discordant figure-ground relationship that causes the two planes to be in a tense and contradictory juxtaposition. While Op Art was largely a movement in painting, Vinod creates this optical tension in the medium of ceramics, creating spatial fluctuations of three-dimensional arrangements adjacent to flat linear drawings and symmetrical colour patterns, interspersed sometimes with real threads, amid iridescent glazes.
Human and organic forms, philosophy and theology coalesce in these works, along with a spontaneity that is characteristic of Vinod’s oeuvre. The precision of the work that he creates not only suggests a confidence with material but also brings to mind the realization of geometric concepts. Explorative in material and medium, Vinod Daroz, like an alchemist, continues his quest for that perfect form in correlation with the natural histories that encompasses us, in the sublimity of the creative act and its mysticisms.
Amrita Gupta Singh