ceramic artist, painter, architect

Adil Writer is a Potter, Ceramist, Painter and Architect from Bombay, currently living and working in Auroville, where he is a partner at Mandala Pottery which produces functional tableware and assorted ceramic items, and also specializes in architectural ceramic murals & installations. From his own Studios at Mandala, he creates his own line of ceramic works.

14 inch dia FLAME WALL DISC <br />
14 inch dia LEAF PLATTER<br />
19 inches dia BEYOND ME<br />
WALL-PANEL 15 inches ht MOON<br />
WALL DISC 14 inches ht PILLAR-ROCK - CELADON<br />
23 inches ht PILLAR-ROCK - CHILLI & LIME<br />
23 inches ht PILLAR-ROCK - GOLDEN-BRIDGE<br />
21 inches ht PILLAR-ROCK - MATT<br />
22 inches ht Silver 1 <br />
acrylic on canvas with ceramic installation 5 feet ht Abstract Panel<br />
24 inches ht
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“STONEWARE” is inspired by pillars, posts, temple walls, graffiti,
weathered lines on rolling stones…and faith.  Daily doses of faith in
South India, where one sees how a simple stone lying by the road
suddenly attracts someone’s eye;
…a person leaves some flowers upon it;
…another decorates it with red tikka (dots);
…along comes someone else who drapes the pillar with a simple cloth;
…the foreground is weeded out, fresh cowdung is smeared to form a suitable floor;
…add a banana to hold a lit incense stick, smear the backing wall with turmeric paste, polka-dot this too with fresh red kumkum paste;
…the revered oil lamp now makes its appearance and completes the tableau.

Daily mechanical rituals…meaning so much to some, unnoticed by others. Rituals evoking emotions and images.  Some swear you can hear and perhaps smell what they bring leaping to your mind.  And soon the humble stone has grown into a temple.  The temple becomes a mosque, the mosque becomes a church, the church becomes a temple.  It’s the cycle of history, the circle of life…and death, and reincarnation and faith, politics and per-capita income.
Welcome to Indiaaah !!!                                        

This leg of my journey began in 2001 on a trip to visit temples and terracotta shrines with Deborah Smith of Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry, and English clay artist Sandy Brown, who had just conducted a workshop at GBP.   
I photographed a seemingly innocuous image of a temple wall covered with a zillion trishul (Shiva's mythological trident/weapon, a symbol of faith and protection in India), and that image has stayed with me ever since.  Somewhere along the way, it also spun around into the universal symbol of peace, got graffitied (?) onto my pillar rocks, and essentially took over the being…reminding me of moments when you are trying to fall asleep and just cannot switch off !

As I work with this ritualistic agenda, scribbles, graffiti, thoughts and “moods of the day” find their way onto stony clay surfaces.  Text often appears in the form of psychedelic lyrics…Floyd, Bono, Cohen…or sublime lines from Sri Aurobindo’s “Savitri”, “The Hour of God” or “Essays on the Gita”…sometimes clear and legible; oft, just a memory from the windmills of my mind.   

And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last,
When all are one and one is all;
To be a rock and not to roll.
And…buying the stairway to heaven.


Adil Writer

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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.

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.   

Ray Meeker, Pondicherry, India, September 18, 2005

Ray Meeker studied architecture and ceramics at the University of Southern California. With his wife Deborah Smith he founded the Golden Bridge Pottery in the South Indian town of Pondicherry in 1971. While Deborah now runs the Golden Bridge Pottery production, Ray is best known as a teacher and as the "architect/potter" who pioneered "fired building" technology. More recently he has gained attention for his independent studio work, ranging widely from functional stoneware to monumental ceramic sculpture.

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