New South Asian artworks for the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s fine art collection.
Six contemporary South Asian artworks for the fine art collection.
We are delighted to announce the arrival of no less than 6 new artworks for our fine art collection. We have been able to acquire our first artworks by contemporary artists, Waswo X. Waswo (b.1953), Rajesh Soni (b.1981) and Rakesh Vijay (b.1970) with the support of purchase grants from the Friends and the Art Fund’s Small Grant Acquisition scheme. The artworks comprise of a series of three large photographic prints: The Mutka Chor [The Pot Thief] (2010), Hanging the Wash (2017) and From a Neighbouring Village (2017) by Waswo X. Waswo and Rajesh Soni, and a pair of paintings (diptych) entitled, The Mutkas [The Pots] (2019) by Waswo X. Waswo and Rakesh Vijay.
American-born photographer, artist and writer, Waswo X.Waswo has lived and worked in India for over 20 years. He is best known for his sepia-toned photographs of India, and the hand-coloured photographic artworks made at his studio in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Waswo often collaborates with Rajesh Soni, a third generation Rajasthani hand-colourist, artist and photographer, and the Rajasthani miniature painter, Rakesh (R.) Vijay. Their artworks explore the themes of identity and place, often using irony and historical references as a commentary on contemporary life.
The Mutka Chor [The Pot Thief] (2010), Hanging the Wash (2017) and From a Neighbouring Village (2017) are creative collaborations between Waswo, Soni and Vijay; Waswo uses backdrop cloths painted by Vijay, to create ‘sets’ which he then populates with objects and members of the local communities to photograph. The last stage of the process is completed by Soni who hand-colours the photographs. The diptych, The Mutkas [The Pots] (2019) is an artistic collaboration between Waswo and Vijay that playfully responds to the photographic prints. The artists draw upon the traditional Persian and Mughal miniature painting in their detailed illustrative depictions of the Indian landscape, flora and fauna.
Our sixth acquisition, our first watercolour painting by Rina Banerjee (b.1963), ‘In turmeric Yellow, another world apart from ours, bathed in humans as resources, natural riches seated in natures warm throne, golden and delicious, encrusted in sugary plants and rambunctious animals waited, watched when small factories tired in the business of making money could not make me a mango‘ (2020), was purchased for the museum’s fine art collection through the Contemporary Art Society’s Fine Art Acquisitions Scheme.
Kolkata-born Banerjee lives and works in New York City. She is known for her eclectic sculptures, watercolour paintings and delicate drawings that reflect her background, incorporating South Asian and Western cultural and material influences. Her practice engages with cultural exchange through materiality, incorporating materials from various traditions. Banerjee’s works on paper often responds to ancient South Asian art, where colourful patterns and grotesque, monstrous figures intertwine and float in a strange universe in which the distinctions between male and female, the human and the divine, are often blurred. In turmeric Yellow… conjures up a strong sense of this in her depiction of the female figure, uncomfortably contorted, sharing the space with a small macaque monkey amidst tropical foliage. Both the figure and the monkey stare out warily at the viewer as if to suggest the viewer is intruding upon the scene and disrupting the natural environment. Banerjee’s title of the painting – which is characteristically long and in poetical prose – references the turmeric spice and the mango (India’s ‘national’ fruit) – both hold great significance in Indian culture.
All of the artworks were specially selected as they build upon the art-historical associations between South Asian art and several objects in the museum’s ceramic and art collections. These highlight some fascinating art-historical linkages between India, the museum, and the city, through their connections to the architectural sculptor and art teacher, John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911) and his son, the author Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) – who was named after Rudyard Lake in the Staffordshire Moorlands where his parents first met.
John Lockwood Kipling began his career as an architectural sculptor working at the South Kensington Museum (today the V&A). He came to Burslem around 1851 as an apprentice and attended art classes at Stoke. In 1863 his design for façade of the Wedgwood Memorial Institute in Burslem won joint first prize. Kipling moved to India in 1865 where he spent a decade teaching at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Mumbai, and a further eighteen years as Principal of the Mayo School of Industrial Arts in Lahore (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts) and Curator of the Lahore Museum. Kipling was passionate about encouraging traditional South Asian arts and crafts by creating new styles and forms through the alignment of contemporary industrial arts with the traditional works. He helped to establish the Wonderland Art Pottery, the trading name of the Bombay School of Art in Mumbai.
A 19th-century earthenware covered ewer, and a small number of earthenware vessels made by the Wonderland Art Pottery, were donated to the museum by Rudyard Kipling in the early 20th century. The wares are exemplars of the Sindh style, decorated with flowers, arabesques and geometric patterns, which can often be seen around the decorative borders in Mughal painting between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Another association with the author is highlighted by the museum’s collection of exquisite original illustrative prints and engravings by the artists, Charles Maurice (1883-1905) and Edward Julius Detmold (1883-1957), which were inspired by South Asian flora and fauna; the Detmolds produced a set of 16 watercolours for the 1903 edition of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
Building upon these connections, these new artworks are significant and exciting contributions to the development of the museum’s fine art collection, and we hope our visitors will enjoy seeing them.