Monday, November 14, 2011

Bonsai garden at Semmozhi Poonga park

Semmozhi Poonga is a paid entrance park in Chennai. It is run by the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Horticulture and Plantation Crops and it features a bonsai garden. Most of the trees are Ficus microcarpa imported from China. Among them there are trees in containers that are about five years old (see picture above) and trees planted in the ground which are about 40 years old (see picture below). The majority of the potted plants were in local unglazed terracotta containers without feet. I felt that this garden is that it’s bedraggled.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bharani jars from Kerala

Dakshinachitra is an open air museum of traditional South Indian architecture. Traditional houses displayed there also feature traditional household items. In a traditional Hindu house from the South Indian state of Kerala I saw interesting earthenware jars. Unlike the unglazed Indian terracotta ware used for cooking, these jars were glazed earthenware (see the picture). Later, I learned that in Kerala these jars are called Cheena Bharani because they were originally made in China for transporting preserved foods. Bharani jars would regularly end up in Kerala through maritime trade, where they were used for preparation and storage of Indian style pickles. To me, these jars emanate what Japanese call wabi. It was interesting to see three different traditional glazes and a very unintentional partial glazing used on the leftmost jar.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cholamandal Artists' Village

Yesterday, I visited Cholamandal Artists' Village. Fifteen years ago, I met some of the village’s artists and visited their studios through my work. This time, I am just a tourist visiting their art gallery. Some of the art displayed there was of outstanding quality. One artist’s work caught my eye because it had a striking resemblance to suiseki or bonkei. They were ink drawings by K. R. Harie produced in 2009 (see pictures above and below).


Yesterday, visited the town of Mahabalipuram about 60 km from Chennai. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the monolithic monuments built in the 7-9th centuries. Stone carving has been a traditional craft in this area for two thousand years. This time, I spent some time observing the work of the stone carvers. Everything except the finishing touches with a pointed chisel (picture “A” above) is done by power tools. First they shape a block of granite for a particular sculpture, by making parallel cuts (picture “B” above) with a diamond blade on an angled grinder. After that all major carving is done by the angled grinders (marked 3 in the picture below) and each artist goes through one or two blades per day. All finer carving is done with diamond bids marked 1 and 2 in the picture below. The bid marked 2 lasts only for 2-3 days, while the bid marked 3 may last for up to two weeks.

Despite of the use of power tools each sculpture takes an amazingly long time to make. For example, picture “A” below shows a sculpture which has been worked on for one and a half months. And those people work long hours. Picture “B” below shows a stature that’s been worked on for at least three months and there is still a lot of finishing work to be done.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Bonsai pots made in October

The oval pot shown above was made with a plaster mold and then was wood-fired. The iron in the clay completely consumed the glaze and the visible pattern is created by molten ash.
The oval pot shown below was formed on the wheel. No glaze, just iron oxide rubbed into the cracks.