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Mutable Threshold - Ceramics by C. Douglas from 1994
16 September 2022, 10:00 AM to 10 October 2022, 07:00 PM

C. Douglas is primarily known for his painterly output created over several decades. A key factor in his constantly evolving art practice is the tactile quality of his imagery produced by the act of crumpling and tearing paper or strewing mud over it. Bearing this in mind, his brief but significant foray into ceramics does not seem like a passing interlude in the journey of the artist. Instead, one could view it as a natural extension of his artistic sensibility that foregrounds material and its possibilities. A turning point in the artist’s trajectory was when he was chosen as an artist-in-residence at the European Ceramic Work Centre in Netherlands. As part of this, the artist spent three months between May and August 1994 at the residency producing a suite of ceramic sculptures complimented by a few paintings.Mutable Thresholds presents a selection of ceramic works produced by the artist during his time at the residency. These works are extremely significant as they represent an important though lesser-known facet of the artist’s work. Further more, these works help us understand the manner in which the creative prowess of the artist manifested across different media. By 1994 the artist had settled in Cholamandal and had evolved a life nourished by a spirit of exchange with fellow artists. The residency brought new vigour to his artistic interactions by giving him the opportunity to interact with renowned artists from across the world. Among the artists he met at the residency were individuals such as Anish Kapoor, as also three other Indian artists, Bhupen Khakhar, Dilip Sur and Sheila Makhijani who were fellow artists-in-residence then; like Douglas, Khakhar was also exploring ceramics for the first time. While the late 1990s witnessed Douglas’ metamorphosis into an artist of rare maturity, one could say that the time he spent at the residency, encountering varied artists, works and thought processes, helped hasten this process of evolution.The ceramic sculptures Douglas produced at the residency are interesting for the way they reflect the overarching themes that he was exploring then in his paintings- the fragmented self, the sense of alienation, the notion of exile, and the liminal state of being. He expressed these through characteristic images such as foetal forms, bells, boats and geometric elements. As in his paintings of that time, he brought an element of abstraction to his ceramics in the way he handled these forms, arranged them in fragmented compositions and used colour. Approaching ceramics from his training as a painter, he worked with the medium to amplify its inherent fragility and earthiness, and express his preoccupation- the vulnerability of human existence.The paintings that are on view in this exhibition were created slightly over a decade after the artist’s stint at the residency. Primarily from the “Missed Call” series, these works provide an interesting compliment to the ceramics. Firstly, they echo the themes of vulnerability, the futility of communication, and the sense of fragmentation that the artist had explored in his ceramics. Secondly, these paintings like the ceramics were a departure from the artist’s characteristic style and method of working. Unlike his usual body of works that are known for their use of sober tones, the works from this series embrace a wider and more playful colour palette. Ultimately, these ceramics and paintings illustrate the explorative spirit of the artist that manifested in different ways across time and continues to define the artist until this day.Exhibition Curated by Ashvin E. Rajagopalan and Essay by Vaishnavi Ramanathan

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