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Article written by Ray Meeker, Pondicherry , India , September 18, 2005

 

An Irrational Humanist

With his Maruti Zen parked ten feet from his wheel, earphones plugged into the car tape deck, Adil Writer flew into his “one-offs” with a joyous abandon. Self-confident and self-directed, he quailed at the idea that he needed to master—or even become familiar with—a few basic techniques. Adil was going to create and ceramic process be damned. He had a real talent for loading every form he made with just about every idea—and there was no dearth of ideas—that happened to pass through his mind and often included every scrap of clay trimmings that could be swept from the floor around his wheel. No “less is more” for this Mumbai architect turning potter.

Adil Writer came to Pondicherry in 1998. He had a masters degree in architecture from the University of Houston in the USA and at the age of thirty-five was a successful architect and interior designer with a very high-profile Mumbai firm. But . . . he wanted to make pots!

The whole of our first seven months together at the Golden Bridge Pottery was a battle of wills. Next year Adil came back for more and by round two he had changed. His ideas were still way ahead of his technique, not uncommon for those who have already had a successful career, but now he was ready to admit that he did need to understand the basics if he wanted to get beyond the myriad technical pitfalls inherent to high-fire glazed ceramics.

In Auroville he teamed up with Anamika, Chinmayi and Krishnamoorthy at Mandala Pottery, applying his abundant energy to expanding their production and at the same time pursuing his individual work with characteristic aplomb. Adil has been going full-steam-ahead with his claywork for eight years now. His compulsive/impetuous nature belies the stability within. His greatest asset—a wonderful exuberance for life—is now tempered with the discipline required to bring his vision and talent to fruition.

Photo by Ireno Photo by Ireno

I first saw the pillar rock series at his Auroville studio about six months ago. There were just two pieces on the work table drying. The slip-cast forms were taken from a plaster cast of a granite fence post. It looked to me like Adil was onto something. The forms were open at one end. Vases? No. The narrow, bulging column is too unstable for a vase. Adil argues a ritualistic agenda. A ritual that has “taken over the [his] being” to the point where he “cannot switch off.”

There is something compelling about the roadside shrines of any culture, even for non-believers. They may see them as works of local interactive art—a kind of “ready made”—renewed continually, richly improvised, sacred no doubt to the devotee but, for the sceptic, primarily visual. And here Adil takes a risk. He freezes the votive act at a single moment, trusting that the visual is persuasive in itself, creating a palpable energy around the work. Adil performs the ritual in his studio using a variety of motifs. Text from the lyrics of 60's psychedelia or Sri Aurobindo's poetry. Traditional symbols: the trishul , swastika and peace symbol. And typical offerings to the idol: the chilli and lime, or the red tikka pressed onto a surface of thick dark slip that, oil-like, sometimes masks the stone textures of his pillar forms. This is not the worship of a divinity, nor is it truly votive—offered or consecrated in fulfillment of a vow. I cannot imagine anyone approaching these pillars as objects of worship. Adil is paraphrasing the sacred—sometimes quoting quite literally—creating an image about worship and faith. Adil does take faith seriously. Faith in culture and humanity and in life. Faith in himself and in the ritual of his art, which may well be the reservoir for his boundless energy.

Large bowls, platters and wall plaques expand the range of the show and, on a lighter note, recalling the functional role of ceramics, Adil has made a series of jaunty dancing stone teapots that seem to defy gravity. And finally, Adil can be terrifically funny. In what I call his “knife, trishul and spoon”—“Faith #1”—he adds a welcome, lightly barbed, humor.

It is perhaps worth remembering that art has its origins in the making of sacred imagery. Adil takes sacred imagery as the inspiration for his art.

 

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