CHENNAI: It’s not every day that one gets to see the works of an artist as senior as Laxma Goud at a city gallery. This year end, many of his ceramic works will adorn the walls of Sarala Art World, giving art enthusiasts a first-hand glimpse of why heis called the ‘Master of Lines’. The works, all of which were done at ceramic artist Adil Writer’s studio Mandala Potter in Auroville as part of a 10-day residency (sponsored by Sarala Art World) that concluded recently, will first be shown at a gallery in Auroville, before travelling to the city. Bichoo, Sarala’s husband, mentioned that there are plans to cast some of the 3D works into limited edition bronzes for the same two shows.
Laxma, who is one of the top 10 artists in the country, is known for his early drawings that depict eroticism in a rural context — that which he did in the 70s and 80s. He was known as the master of erotica in those days, at a time when people were shocked to see such images in galleries, says Adil. But he kept on with it and became famous for that. “It doesn’t matter whether he is drawing a house, a nude or tree, the line work is so beautiful and clean. And that transfers into the ceramic work he does,” says Adil, who had the opportunity to interact and see the master work at his own studio. He shares with CE a few highlights of the ten-day stay with the 74-year-old veteran artist.
Master at Work
I consider myself a work horse, but Laxma ji put me to shame! He would arrive early morning and leave late evening. He refused to budge even for lunch. Poor Sarala (founder of Sarala Art World) had to send over home-cooked food which he would wolf down in five minutes and get back to his work. But I do not think we was ‘working’ in that sense. He was like a child discovering ways of working with a relatively (for him) new medium of clay. Laxma ji has done extensive work in clay at a facility in Jaipur, but clay as a medium has a different feel at every new place. We at Mandala Pottery, prepared three clay bodies for him to explore, as well as small batches of coloured clay bodies which he used for ornamentations for the Telangana ladies he was making here. He masterfully inscribed leather-hard slabs of clay with a needle-tool, bringing alive village scenes he recalls from his childhood. Most of the work he made here were elaborately embellished heads of women. When quizzed about the erotica he is known for, he obliged with some masterful line drawings depicting more than what youngsters know as ‘shades of grey’!
It was a task in itself to ‘kidnap’ him and take him around to see a bit of Auroville. He was mostly ensconced in Sarala’s air-conditioned car, so to give him the taste of our mud roads, I whisked him away as a pillion on my motorbike; which he very sportingly agreed to. I took him to visit the Matrimandir. He mentioned later how refreshed he felt after the morning we spent in the concentration room and later in the Matrimandir grounds. I believe that if we are stuck in our studios, we do not absorb the environment we are working in, which surely plays a part in the work that manifests from the residency. In my own experience, the clay work I have done at residencies in China, Bali, Japan and Korea is very different from one to the other. If I have to go to a distant destination and make what I can easily make in my own studio, why go there at all? The point is to work out of your comfort zones and explore what the world has to offer you. Laxma ji’s pieces which we have soda/wood fired here are very different from his earlier encounters with clay.
Cloud of Fans
Though he chose to remain hidden in the studio nestled in the forests of Auroville, word quickly went around the community and we had a stream of visitors dropping in to see him at work and interact with him. Visitors and artists from the Aurobindo Ashram also visited.
It has had an invaluable influence on me. His focus, his single-minded determination at coming to Auroville and making a body of work in less than two weeks, tells us a lot about the artist in him. Just watching the way he swiftly drew incredibly animated lines in clay was a learning experience in itself. Though it was the peak of summer in Auroville, he sweetly put that aside by telling us that it was hotter in Hyderabad then, and that he was used to it!