Review by Hemavathy Guha
September 01, 2018


Craft Beton
Contemporary functional art in cement by six world renowned designers
Presented by Dalmia Bharat
August 8-12, 2018
Visual Arts Gallery, IHC, New Delhi

A recent exhibition in the capital orgainsed by Dalmia Bharat had six reowned designers displaying their art – contemporary functional art – in cement! Yes, you heard in right! If you ever had a notion that cement as a boring rigid medium which can be used only in construction, this exhibition would change your views on the medium.

Sundeep Kumar, the Chief Executive of Dalmia Bharat says: “Generally people associate cement with concrete and buildings. That’s what it has been used for many years. To dispel the myth, we invited six internationally acclaimed designers for a residency and asked them to design and create works inspired by nature, art, films and functional items. So, that’s how many of them have created tiles inspired by nature, utility items inspired by art like Dali’s soft watches and several other objects. This is the third edition that we have come up with.”

As one entered the gallery, the colour of cement like light and dark grey and the huge black backdrops predominated. The first or the front part of the gallery had been used for displaying objects inspired by nature like flowers, sea, seasons and smells. Somesh Singh, an alumnus of NIFT had designed tiles inspired by flowers like Mahua, Jaro, Tessara and Ersa (sparkles of dew). These tiles were in light grey with Mahua and Ersa having golden coloured petals and dew drops respectively. A lamp titled Henet had a tree like stand and a nest looking like a crystal. The light came out through neatly cut openings in the nest. According to him this design was inspired by the pelican bird which feeds its children her own blood if food is not found. I admired this work very much. Another piece titled ‘Hero’n took its inspiration from the concept of mirage. Cut neatly, like the bird, this work had two parts, was chrome plated using special technology and the image was reflected on a cement base.

Iti Tyagi, the founder of craft village, had designed tiles using aerodynamic design titled Aero-flying high. The layers of triangular shapes upturned and downturned reflected the light and shadow.  In ‘Shingle’, also designed by Iti, one could feel the soft waves on a sandy beach touching your feet. In ‘Bunt-a celebration called life’, Anna Kraus, an artist and sculptor from Germany, tried to capture the sense of movement when flags flutter in the wind interplaying light and shadow. Iti Tyagi, inspired by the ‘Rani ka Vav’ (step well) in Gujarat, had created a piece titled Aedis, In step with the times. Cynthia from Mexico had designed and displayed a beautiful candle holder which was like a stairway (to passion). Alan saga from Mexico, inspired by that eternal beauty Cleopatra, had designed a shoe whose sole was made of cement. Now who would have thought of that?  Somesh singh had gone a step further and designed functional items which were flexible like a laptop bag and a ladies’ handbag. There were also coffee and sugar jars created by Alan Saga, titled ‘Pandora’, but they had only hope inside and no evils and had a unique design like sacks used to store spices. A chair made of wood and cement alternating by Alan was quite a novel idea. The stool titled ‘Seiza’ had a cement base and wooden legs looking prim and proper. A coffee table titled ‘Fika -coffee and conversations’ invited you to be seated and indulge in intimate conversations. A mirror by Alan with an outer frame which had embossings like medusa’s tangled locks caught our attention.  A table lamp titled ‘Cosmos’ had interlocked rings inside and an outer ring with small bulbs brightening up the universe. Alan had also displayed toilet paper and tooth brush stand inspired by film reels and food platters inspired by the pyramids which inevitably inspire all artists. The ‘Pyramidos - Fire at its Heart’ was a pentagon with enclosures to keep snacks and nuts. The piece ‘Danza’ was inspired by the swirling skirts of dancers.  The platter titled pyramids had six pyramids and alternating flat spaces which can be used for serving items. The clock was designed like a wheel with light and shadow passing through the spokes.

Iti Tyagi in ‘Caves - No Limits to Art’, had designed a hanging lamp whose shade was like a crumbled canvas and was artistic. In the tea set titled ‘Wabi Sabi - Imperfect, Impermanent and Incomplete’, the teacups in shades of grey had a streak of gold running through their body and the tea holder had a wooden handle which could be balanced on the shoulders also. She had displayed platters shaped like a fallen leaf which are anyway traditionally used to serve food.  Her design of a sink like the banana leaf where water trickles down to a brass vessel through the central verge was an interesting piece. Another piece designed by her was a timepiece inspired by Dali’s soft time pieces.

Among the many things which Somesh Singh, had designed were a bar stool with a cement base with letters embossed on them and a magazine rack titled ‘Memoir, Untold Stories’ with a cement base and leather handles. The platter ‘Full Moon’ with a turquoise base and cemented moon in the centre was supposed to depict the various phases of the moon although I could see only the full moon. Miroslaw Baca from Poland had designed lamps titled ‘Birth, Ray of Hope’ which had a womb like structure with a hand on it and light coming through it. In the firefly lamp, the shade was designed like an abstract firefly.

Cynthia’s ‘Deco-United by Desire’ had two shades one above the other adhering to the theme of uniting by desire. The book rack titled ‘Athenium - A Mind of its Own’ perhaps took its cue from Greek literature had a head split into two with a space in between for books. The table lamp ‘Brutalist’ had a twisted and zigzag shape true to its name with light emanating through the layers. The platter titled ‘SHI - Light Servings’ had five plates of various sizes with the largest one in the middle. A circular table titled ‘Hikuri - In Between Conversations’ had a flower shaped design in the centre. The lamp titled ‘Zappa - The Sea Light’ looked like a sea fish with very thin angular legs.

One interesting thing which stood out in this exhibition was the various designs of wash basins and sinks. Anna Kraus had designed a wash basin titled ‘Nidus-Feather Your Nest in White’ which had circular reams becoming smaller as they reached the bottom. The basin titled Oracle was designed after the origami paper folds which children play with and titled ‘stroke of luck’.

The other sink titled ‘Origami’ had angular straight folds with gap in between for water to seep through. The upturned sink circular in shape with two parts turned down our very idea of a wash basin. The tiles titled ‘Axon - A Touch of You’ had the impression of a finger tip texture in the corners inviting you to touch and feel.  Iti had designed a wash basin ‘Sonnet-a poetry in motion’ and another wash basin titled ‘Aedis - In Step with the Times’ resembling a step well. Her sink titled ‘Jodie’ was very minimalist in design with a white base and a black centre. She had also designed tiles inspired by nature like Floret and magnolia. Her best creation was ‘Nappa Second Skin’ which resembled leather and soft to touch. Somesh had displayed a wash basin titled ‘Doris - Tide in the Ocean’ which glow in the dark. The tiles based on autumn and fall season had impressions of fallen leaves. The garden tiles designed by Miroslaw baca with hand on one and holes on another were very functional and soothing to the eye.