Draw Me a Shadow: Ceramicist Madhvi Subramanian’s latest show explores relationship between an object and its shadow

Earlier this year, in Singapore, as she drove down from her house to the studio, Madhvi Subrahmanian was so struck by shadows cast by the trees along the road that she had to stop and take a photograph. Growing and fading as the sun made its journey across the sky, the shadows looked to her like an attempt by the trees to draw attention to their continued presence. The artist says, “I take this street every day, and I see the beautiful patterns made by the shadows. But these patterns keep changing too, because the trees are part of an urban landscape that is itself rapidly changing.”In these shadows, she realised, lay the story of the battle between human beings and the environment. “We’re chopping down more trees and replacing them with buildings, but trees will always find a way to make their presence known. Their shadows will fall on the road, which was also once their space, and will remind us of this fact,” she says.The 55-year-old ceramicist also saw in these shifting shadows a likeness to the nature of memory itself. “You experience a moment and you say it’s something you will remember forever, but that’s not how it works,” says Subrahmanian. “What the exact moment was and what your memory of it is, will be quite different.”While, over the years, India has produced excellent ceramic artists such Vineet Kacker and Vinod Daroz, the art form still remains largely neglected. Collectors tend to favour other, more “contemporary” forms. Even if artists want to work with clay, the logistics of setting up a studio, complete with a kiln, can be hugely discouraging. All these factors didn’t stop Mumbai-born Subrahmanian from pursuing what she felt was her calling. She went to Pondicherry in 1985 to train in pottery with ceramicists Ray Meeker and Deborah Smith at their renowned workshop in Golden Bridge Pottery, and later got a Masters in Fine Arts from Meadows School of the Arts in Texas, USA.

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