An Imaginative Ceramist

by Salwat Ali

As a ceramist Salman Ikram has an in depth working knowledge of glazing techniques.

Having last exhibited in Karachi in the year 2000 young ceramist Salman Ikram returned to the city recently with a fresh collection. Small scaled delicate forms, keen attention to detail and finish with particular reference to glazes were some noticeable features of his earlier work. His current solo show at Chawkandi Art, Karachi, was in many ways an affirmation of this specific approach. By and large the new body of work, still small in size, consisted of non functional display pieces with focus mainly on shape of form and accent on glazing and chromatic distinctness.
Salman Ikram is among the new generation ceramists of Pakistan who are translating its venerable traditions into a contemporary language.
While western aesthetics exert an influence on his expression the Islamic and the sub continental ethos is also very much there. He innovates by modifying the vessel form. Playing with its size, rim, neck or belly he introduces subtle or obvious variations characterized by a very sensitive sense of balance. He admits to, “throwing my shapes on narrow feet,” which adds to the dramatic liberties he takes with other parts of the object. In his ‘Flying Series’ the compressed belly of the sphere is stretched laterally to an elegant roundness much like a UFO spaceship. Capped with a short neck and undulating rim the spheroid fans out like the flowing robe of a dancing dervish. He has cleverly managed to emit the feel of the whirling movement by keeping its resting base or feet hidden from view.
As a studio potter Salman Ikram works towards a geometric as well as an aesthetic balance. However, he makes creative use of flared rims, spiraling edges and undulating contours to impart flowing, often lyrical rhythms to his otherwise static objects.
Porcelain, stoneware and earthenware are categories of clays. Glazes are liquids often applied to their surfaces to seal colours and smoothen them. Firing is the process of heating the clays and glazes to harden them and make them more functional and longer lasting. As a ceramist Salman Ikram has an in depth working knowledge of glazing techniques. When it comes to finishing his pieces he is partial to satiny glows and glossy, finely flecked sheens but at the same time handles crusty, ruptured surfaces, volcanic textures and matte finishes with equal ease. Using both reduction and oxidation processes for desired effects he opts for the greater flexibility of gas firing.
Originally presented in Dawn Gallery, December 3, 2005 issue.