Review #1 published by The Institute of Equilateral Thoughts in January 2016
Exhibition title: Pottery is Back!
Period: 14th Janurary-14 Feburary 2016
Venue: Kunstnerforbundet, Oslo, Norway
A common and unflattering perception appears to float around that pottery and the use of ceramics has a long standing relationship problem with the wider circles of contemporary art. Unsure of it's position - doubts circle relentlessly and refuse to disperse. As a material clay has been crudely fetishized - stuck somewhere back in ancient traditions. Yet recent movements suggest the identity of ceramics is maybe becoming clearer; Body and Soul: New international ceramics at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2014, and Serena Corda's hand made ceramic vessels in her forthcoming work The Jug Choir at Camden Arts Centre this month are two examples of ceramic embraces. This alongside works by artists such as Yeesookyung suggest that the manipulation of ceramics within artists practices plays a more prominent role than what we initially assume. The adeptly named exhibition Pottery is Back! held at Kunstnerforbundet appears to reaffirm this shift in attitude. Whilst on first glance we are presented with an exhibition which appears to wonder within historical habits, upon a closer look it's clear a number of artists are using clay as a means to communicate how this material has evolved through time.
Framed by a series of wooden tables, 28 artists selected and curated by Gertrude Steinsvag occupy the 1st floor of the gallery. Spanning multiple generations the exhibiting artists respond though a variety of methods in which small delicate pots, containers, plates and malleable forms occupy all corners of the space. The decorative and the abstract, delicate and cumbersome, functional and functionless; its clear pottery fits no longer within old expectations. Framing such a wide curatorial remit is challenging, works are lined and often in a grid like formation on tables, shelves and other surfaces, and you feel various works would benefit from a little extra space for consideration. Often it's the works which reflect upon clays materiality and its origins, remaining true to its organic form which stand out from their surroundings.
Anette Krogstad's (1984) trio of ceramic's sit somewhere between the boundary of vases and pots, providing an oceanic depth through the surface of the fired clay. The labour of the hand is clearly visible as the pots appear to adopt their own forms as they please, very much like nature at it's most remote. Whilst Heidi Bjørgan's (1970) small jugs appear to draw parallels to a history of craft making, drawing comparisons to marbles, metals and bronzes in works that appear beautifully melted by the passing of time. The shifting of time is also prevalent in the work of Swedish artist Kjell Rylander (1964), in which four recognisable yet seemingly functionless objects atop a shelf like platform on the floor of the gallery. A pan, two sheets of paper and a small circular dish are set out across a wooden shelf somewhat resembling a table place setting from a past time. Collectively the objects paradoxically present both an absence and presence, a series of objects which are identifiably clear yet fail to adopt a real world function - resulting in a ghostly quality that evokes an aura of history through a set of utilitarian ceramic objects.
A small work upon one of the exhibitions tables by Sigrid Espelien (1984) draws upon the cities changing social and geographical landscape. Taken from the clay infused ground of Oslo's Bjørvika area - an part of Oslo currently undergoing an aggressive phase of gentrification. The work is shaped into a small container that reflects the area in which it was formed. A simple yet poignant work in which the cracks and imperfections in the clay appear to create a natural map of interwoven routes, directions and passageways, which are currently being formed in the physical landscape mere meters from which the work sits. However it's one of the younger artists in the exhibition, in work of Eunju Kang (1983) and her Ceramic vocabulary book series, 2015 that speaks clearly in regards to the exhibitions context. Comprised of a triptych of intricate hand cut prints depicting workshop scenes, the series display a sense of direct experience between hand and material. Opening to us a sense of dedicated time escaping through the depth of the laid paper.
Pottery is back! presents an opportunity to reflect upon our relationship with the rawest of materials, and it feels cleansing somehow to do so. Upon leaving the exhibition it maybe remains difficult to pinpoint our shifting attitudes towards ceramics, and we could do worse than to reflect upon our increasing devaluation of human values within the context of a rapidly technological focused economy. Maybe we now face a juncture, in which a direct interaction to material drawn from the rock we are exhausting becomes more timely than ever before.
Pottery is Back! ran from 14th Janurary to 14 Feburary 2016.
Curated by Gertrude Steinsvag
Kunstnerforbundet | Kjled Stubs gate 3 | 0160 Oslo
Participating artists: Elisa Helland-Hansen, Geoff Ringset, Heidi Bjørgan, Andreas Schneider, Marit Tingleff, Sigrid Espelien, Bjørn Erik Haugen, Eunju Kang, Torunn Måseidvåg, Hanna Björkdahl, Ida O. Barland and Lissette Escobar, Ella-Marie Berglund, Elna Hagemann , Helle Høeg Voldstad, Hedvig Ore Stream Winge, Kjell Rylander, Anette Krogstad, Bodil Mogstad Skipnes, Guri Sandvik, Magni Jensen, Tora Haabet, Victoria Günzler, Ahmad Umar, Nina Malterud, Anne Udnes, Sara Skotte and Anne Line Sund