Shaping stories that seem to be as old as the earth, ceramics in India dates back to a time even before the Indus Valley civilization and some examples of Harappan pottery reflect remarkable skill and beauty that amaze us even today. Modern day Gujarat extends from the very region that the Harappan sites once existed, and traditional potters still use clay from the same region as was used 5000 years ago. Being in close proximity to trade routes that connected the subcontinent to Central Asia, and having a 1600 km coastline, this region was exposed to diverse influences through invasions and trade, notably the Mongols and Arabs.
India is a country steeped in traditions, many of which continue to live and transform in accordance with changing times. The arts in India have mostly survived on knowledge and skills being taught from one generation to the next; a process that invariably infuses a depth of understanding, which gets reflected in the intricacies and nuances of artistic expression. There is also the inescapable story behind every object and every life. However, there are many aspects of traditional Indian art-practice that has been moulded by convention and institutionalised to leave little room for new individual imagination. There are also cases where an unreasonable insistence on conforming to certain cumbersome traditional techniques, despite the existence of modern innovations to overcome the drawbacks, has lead to a discontinuation of those art practices.
Looking at the practice of a contemporary artist in this context adds another dimension to the existing cultural dialogue. Vinod Daroz hails from a family of traditional jewellers. Refined craftsmanship, a pristine finish to every object and an eye for detail are perhaps standards that have been imbibed from the family profession. Vinod credits his uncle P. R. Daroz, a well-known ceramist based in New Delhi, for introducing him to studio pottery and the medium of ceramics. After graduating from the department of sculpture at the M. S. University of Baroda in Gujarat, Vinod decided to specialize in ceramic sculpture. Vinod’s first experiments in ceramics began in the few hours after his routine studio schedule as a graduate student. After completing his postgraduation, he chose to have studio in Baroda rather than closer to his hometown back in Andhra Pradesh, which has a lot to do with the availability of resources for creating ceramics. Gujarat hosts the maximum number of ceramic industries in the country. Mining in this region produces a wealth of raw materials that contribute in creating different composites of clay and similarly, the colorants used in glazes are easily available from the teeming chemical industries that produce oxides. All these factors make Gujarat one of the most conducive locations for individual studio potters to avail of their materials with relative ease from ceramic manufacturers and chemical industries. The practical convenience of being situated in Baroda, a city known for its cultural heritage has appealed to ceramists like Vinod Daroz.
Contemporary studio-potters in India keep a largely open index of techniques within their practice since there is an easy access to study the approaches and methodologies practiced worldwide. The focus on imaginative content and individual expression also lead them to adopt and modify existing techniques to suit the needs of their own visual language. Therefore, the materials procured by studio potters is sourced according to their own preference and in recent times, ordering a special clay body from China or a unique glaze component from another region is simply done with the click of a button.
Jyotsna Bhatt is a senior ceramist and Vinod Daroz’s teacher. Recalling her experiences of procuring materials throughout her long career, she mentions the important role played by the industries located both in Baroda and other regions of Gujarat. However, when it comes to techniques, she speaks of developing an individual approach that is not hinged on geographic region or traditional practices. Both Jyotsna Bhatt and Vinod Daroz speak of the quality of clay in Gujarat having very high plasticity that aids their practice.
Vinod Daroz spent most of his vacations as a student travelling to cities with established ceramic studios in order to expand his oeuvre and seek a wider ambit of interaction with studio potters. Although Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal and the Goldeun Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry were both hugely beneficial in expanding his understanding of processes and production, he says that his own techniques have not had any direct influences from either of these places.
The engagement with nature is intertwined with everyday life, customs and aesthetic sensibilities in India. Examples of art and architecture from history immediately reflect the immediate surroundings both in material and in the representation of visual imagery. The challenges of transporting materials like stone from one place to another many centuries ago were far greater than the ease provided by today’s e-commerce and shipping technologies and artists of earlier times resorted to using the resources that were abundant in their respective regions. What still remains unique today is the ability to manipulate a medium to transport viewers into unknown and imaginative territories. In this aspect Vinod Daroz exercises complete freedom in choosing to make his own clay body suited for high-temperature firing and has over the years developed a palette of glazes unique to his sensibilities.
Location has been highly influential in Vinod’s practice from the perspective of developing forms and subjective content in his work. He keeps returning to speak about his visits to the temple-town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu and Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, where the temple sculptures and architecture have had a deep impact on his work. The tendency to elaborate on basic forms of vases, platters, urns and bowls draw from the lyrical elaboration seen in the stone sculptures; and his use of gold and copper glazes as incidental embellishments in the works echo his background of the decorative innovations seen within jewellery making. Pattern-making and design is characteristic of art and craft traditions all over India but the repetitive elements in Vinod’s works in fact evoke aspects of recall and emphasis that one would otherwise associate with chants and meditative practices. The artist however places more importance on the symbolic interpretations of forms and images within his work. He draws a reference to Mandalas through the image of the lotus detailed on large platters, or symbolic representations of the male and female sexualities through the lingam and yoni that are seen in suggestions of floral elements and phallic forms. They all seem to point towards the concept of a universal oneness that embraces both male and female energies. The power of nature can overwhelm one to contemplate on the fundamental aspects of life and for Vinod, the tsunami of 2004 that hit many parts of the western coast of India led him to seek a new direction within his work. His series titled Silent Sloka reflects his exploration of notions of universal peace.
As much as Vinod Daroz’s works exude a tranquil space of articulation, the vibrant glazes, stark contrasts and incessant repetition speak of a restless temperament; one that is insatiable in its attempts to achieve perfection and hence he arrives at poetic refrain within his prolific production of high-temperature ceramics. As long as there is earth and fire, and two hands to shape an imagination, the potter's wheel will keep spinning.
-- Malavika Rajnarayan
Vinod Daroz was born in southern India. He studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, completing his post-graduation (MFA) in ceramic sculpture in 1999
He has had more than 10 Solo Shows to date with prestigious galleries in India, His work has been chosen by several curators to be a part of several Group Shows. Also invited for symposium and Exhibition’s Nationally/Internationally, The Most recent residency at “Liling ceramic valley Museum”, China. “International ceramic studio, Taochichun, Jingdezhen, China
Vinod has received the following awards: National Scholarship for Young Artists, Government of India (1997), AIFACS Award for Best Potter of the Year, New Delhi (1998), AIFACS Award for Best Exhibit, New Delhi (2000), Junior Fellowship, Gov- ernemnt of India (2002), Harmony Judges’ Special Award, Harmony Show, Mumbai (2004), Charles Wallace India Trust Award, British Council, India (2004).
Also a Member of, International Academy Of Ceramics (IAC), Geneva. International Ceramic Artists Association, Zibo, China.
His works take pride in many museum and private National/International collections