Well-known Puducherry-based artist and studio potter Adil Writer is a self-confessed “rule breaker”. He recoils at the idea of teaching ceramic making, but is happy to leave his doors open to those who have a flair for the medium. Apart from the motley collection of ceramic tableware, murals and architectural installations that embellish the nook and cranny of Mandala pottery in Auroville, where he lives, Adil is building a collection of works made by his visitors.
He lets his visitors experience the tactile feel of clay on hands. He says, “I want my visitors to hold the clay, feel it, mould it and leave their finger imprints on it. It’s building up into an incredible collection of sculptural pieces made by friends and strangers. Who knows, this very moment may change one of their lives as it has changed mine.” His recent works include the Barcodes and Premonition series, where he takes the canvas off the wall and makes it into a sculptural object. Adil’s diverse and intriguing range of ceramic books were recently shown at the Secrets & Lies solo shows in Japan and Mumbai’s Gallery Art & Soul.
Adil’s Red Dot series, his leitmotif where the red ‘tilo’ (dot in Parsi) on the works, inspired by the red vermilion mark that women wear on their foreheads, originated in his childhood days in Mumbai. While experimenting with hues, textures and ingredients, the artist loves to leave an air of mystery on his ceramics. “My role ends with moulding and glazing the clay to the desired shape and colour. The kiln takes care of the rest. It is amazing the way the clay you painted metamorphoses into stoneware with magnificent hues given by the fire.”
One may find dainty scribbling on some of his works which he says are drawn from his collection Secrets and Lies where he has doodled words for the viewer to interpret it as a secret or a lie. “I deliberately shuffled ingredients, used ceramic paints and grog (sand used for ceramic work) on canvas and canvas stuff on ceramic to give them a uniform look. Can your eyes make out the clay from the fabric?” he asks.
A staunch believer in the beauty of imperfection, Adil says he doesn’t wield a style or approach as he doesn’t have control over the end-product. Adil has recently returned from an invited residency in Indonesia. He adds, “Balinese Hinduism tells us that there is not just good and bad in the world, not just black and white. There is a third median, the centre, the balance. The grey. The bottle-kiln at Gaya is also known to give rather grey results with the coffee-wood that is used for firing, so this all fell into place and resulted in the show.” He made works at Gaya Ceramic Centre in Bali which culminated in the solo show Shades of Grey. “Yes, I know the connotation this title has in today’s literary world... but believe me, it’s not about that. My works, wherever I make them in the world, need to touch something in the local ethos of the place, they need to relate to where I am in that moment. If I was to make things I make here in Auroville, why do I need to cross oceans? The reference to grey is from the magical checkered poleng fabric, seen everywhere on the island.”
Crusade, his series of alternate paintings on canvas and clay, strung together as tablets, looks uniform in texture until you touch them to find the difference. He turns the ceramic into canvas in the life-size replica of human arms with puzzling inscriptions and curly pale nails, the string of baby faces that evoke emotions from repulsion to poignancy or the “treasure boxes” with uneven seams and crooked crevices.