Mystical appeal of enamel artefacts

FINE ART

The gloss-finish on the artefacts makes them shine like precious metals. The bright colours chosen to create them make the finished artworks look even more appealing and the gallery lights up when all the works are displayed together.  

  Enamelling is the technique that makes the artefacts, created by Veenu Shah and Jyoti Singh, displayed as the exhibition ‘Between the Lines’, look special. 

From being a technique to ornament precious objects, armoury and most importantly jewellery worn extensively by the Byzantines and Mughals, including Indian kings, enamel art has found its way into decorative products today. The reason being that enamelling can stay for centuries and is such an expressive medium that it can be used both on miniature forms like jewellery and in three-dimensional objects such as sculptures and art installations.

For those who are not too aware of the art, it is important to know that enamel is transparent ground glass mixed with oxides to provide the colouration, which is then applied to metal and fired between 750 and 850 degree Celsius in a kiln. 

Artists Veenu Shah and Jyoti Singh use the same technique to showcase fired enamels on copper and steel. The works make you fall in love with the creations that have a mystical appeal. “When fired, the silica-based colours, melt and fuse on the base metal producing a beautiful array of designs. One piece can be worked upon and fired up to 12 times, sometimes more, and the beauty is that each time a different design emerges,” says Shah, whose works are quite contemporary. 

Deeply influenced by the dynamics of modern life, Shah’s works also emanate a serene spirituality. “Turning a plain sheet of copper into a spoken statement in single, dual or multiple dimensions is an interesting process, and I am quite passionate about it,” she adds remarking, “Perfection is not my goal, mine is a search for harmony.”From the bowls to the door handles, there is a lot of layering in each art work. One can imagine the amount of hard work that would have gone into creating each of these delicate pieces. 

“Starting work on a piece of sculptural enamel, partially planned as a part of series of forms within a family of works where textual and graphic details overlap, and partially allowing the process and material to take its own life, is sheer bliss,” says Singh. In India, enamel has been in use since the advent of the Mughals. It is said that Emperor Akbar had a special department in his court for enamelling. Historians say it was Raja Mansingh who had introduced enamel decoration to Jaipur from Lahore. In Jaipur, especially during the reign of Maharaja Jai Singh, the art of enamelling attained great perfection and beauty. And today it is these two contemporary artists who are striving to keep this rich heritage alive.

The exhibition is on view at the Visual Art Gallery, Indian Habitat Centre till October 31. 

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