Ladies and gentlemen, friends of ceramics
It is a privilege for me to say a few words as a ritual gesture to open this exhibition: Ten Dutch ceramists in Pecs. I feel privileged more so, because Five churches, Fünfkirchen, Pecs is this year together with Istanbul and the Ruhr area cultural capital of Europe. Don’t be afraid I am not going to talk about cultural capitals or churches whether it be five, or four and a mosque, a beautiful one by the way.
Pecs is in Europe one of those cities with a long and famous tradition in ceramics. The Zsolnay brand is for more than a century highly regarded in the world of ceramics, whether it be, building ceramics, the roof tiles for example, whether it be functional ceramics like pottery or earthenware, or ceramics as a piece of art, applied or not. One could say ceramics and Pecs are family.
In a way this is also the case with the city of Delft, the Delft blue pottery, as a world famous brand. Delft where the ceramics gallery Terra is based and where the creative and energetic owners of Terra, Joke Doedens and Simone Haak are the initiators of this exchange of ceramists from the Netherlands and Hungary. They have a sensitive, precise and creative eye and a perfect feeling making the right decisions, in this case the choice of the artists of this exhibition and to invite Marta Nagy to curate the exhibition in Delft, starting next week with Hungarian Ceramists Not only is Marta Nagy an outstanding relevant and interesting artist in ceramics, she also embodies a huge amount of knowledge about what is going on the world of art and ceramics.
Joke and Simone were able to compose an exhibition of Dutch contemporary ceramics that is rich, varied, diverse and in all cases of high quality. Like Marta Nagy they are one of those rare cultural personalities with the ability to surpass their own taste in making choices and acknowledge quality in very different modes of esthetics, or quality wherever it is.
For several reasons the artistic practice of ceramics is interesting, one of them being the process of emancipation of the ceramist over the last centuries. Originally embodied in the world of craft, it moved partly to the practice of applied arts, and later part of it became a full artistic, more or less autonomous, practice, with. an artistic grammar of its own and a self referent sets of criteria for quality. Borders were crossed, between different domains and different artistic disciplines. In the world of building ceramics and earthenware and pottery, designers invaded, in the world of the arts the ceramists moved in. Artists trained in all kind of the visual arts entered the artistic practice of ceramics. New perspectives of relations between the world of technology, the world of craftsmanship and the world of arts opened up.
Gertrude Stein wrote in a poem a rose is a rose is a rose is rose. In ceramics sometimes a vase is a vase, sometimes a vase is not vase, but a mental image of a vase, sometimes it is a vase and not vase at the same time. Some tulip vases are there to put tulips in, other tulip vases are there on their own right. The fact that now you have side by side items of earthenware, pottery and ceramics as a an expression of art makes this cultural domain interesting. You can notice this in the different attitudes of the artists, some experiment with materials and techniques, some try to apply high end technology and science in their work, some discuss in their work the characteristics of architecture, some position themselves in big artistic traditions, baroque, modernism, neoclassical, some go back to the basics of the earth, wind and fire and water of course. The discipline has become, multi-layered, multi-faceted, hybrid, a discipline in conversation, in debate with the surrounding world, with the world of crafts, with other artistic disciplines. This exhibition is a clear sign of that.
There is an advantage for a fruitful ceramist culture of being based in a city like Delft or Pecs , in the strong and famous traditions on ceramics in those cities. The historic very famous brands Delft blue and Zsolnaj creates a positive attitude towards this form of cultural expression. There are shops, information centers, marketing institutions, educational institutes, knowledge etc. In other words there is a infrastructure to support and stimulate the debate about, the production and the distribution and communication of this cultural branch. So far so good.
But often it is also a disadvantage. In many cases known, the existing infrastructure has her eyes directed solely at the grand periods in history. What once was a revolutionary dynamic and innovative system of production of the highest quality has a tendency to come to a standstill, to freeze in history. to be repeated till almost all the life has disappeared out of it. Those were the days, it is becoming a routine. It is becoming a past , as dead past instead of a past as a source of inspiration for the future. It is starting to resist innovation and experimentation. A grand tradition is turning itself against itself, it becomes self satisfied, it does not allow comments and debate. Partly what is said here is also true for Zsolnay and Delft Blue ( Porceleyne fles) To continue the innovative aspects of this cultural and artistic disciplines , to re-invent experimentation, to re-instate vivid debates about the relation of art and technology, ceramics and sculpture, the relation of ceramics to the art world and to the world of production and craftsmanship, to dig up the relation of thinking and philosophy on one hand and ceramics on the other, one is in need for new initiatives, new committed personalities, new elements of the cultural infrastructure. Sometimes this attitude for renewal is found in educational institutions, sometimes in museums, sometimes in the group of artists whose discipline it is, or artists of another discipline, sometimes it could be found in galleries, sometimes it can be generated through international exchange. There is no doubt in my mind when I say that in the case of Pecs, Marta Nagy is playing a major role in this and in the case of Delft, Galerie Terra is an important protagonistt. The exhibition opened here today and the one to be opened in a week time in Delft is a modest but clear sign of it.
What you can enjoy today , ten Dutch ceramists in Hungary, is a very diverse collection of high quality ceramists. As most of may know , due to the English, the Brits, those bastards, the term Dutch has in a lot of combinations a very negative connotation, so is double Dutch, mendacious, untruthful, Dutch comfort, the opposite of comfort, Dutch wife or widow a prostitute, Dutch music, noise, Dutch uncle the opposite of a friendly uncle, Dutch courage is cowardly and a Dutch treat is a treat we you pay for yourself. In this way ten Dutch ceramists as a title is far from positive. Dutch refers to stingy, mean, penny wise and pound foolish. But because of the contents of this exhibition which is rich and generous, you can interpret the title Ten Dutch ceramists in Hungary as an honorary title. Stupid Brits as the French are used to say. This presentation is rich and diverse. Diverse in the sense of what they want to achieve with their work, diverse in the sense of their positions towards currents and periods in the art production, diverse in the sense of different types of experimentation and applying technology, diverse in the attitude towards the material they are working with.
Is Wim Borst work rooted in the Dutch geometrical abstract tradition, but elaborated in a non Calvinistic way, modernism-light you can say, another one is overstressing baroque tendencies and is balancing on the edge of art and kitsch, beauty and repulsion, the ecstatic and heavy work of Hanneke Giezen. Where Henk Wolvers is in a very varied way working with basic forms of the Vase and the bowl ( but I warned you a vase is not always a vase) and successfully varying and innovating these basic forms, Mariette van de Ven is fascinated by the human figure, a sculptress in ceramics, not the beauty of the human form but the slightly alienated aspects of personalities seems to be her focus. Her work is sometimes painfully poetic and touching.
With what could be called ceramic archaeology Marijke Gemessy is using the beauty and techniques and the skills of bygone times transformed by adding absurd elements, with a touch of irony and humor. Done often in the Delft Blue style the result is a contemporary homage to forgotten antique times. Mieke de Groot makes series of works, where one work leading is to the other, till the possibilities of the series are exhausted and the most urgent form is found. Special attention in her work is the skin, a skin as if the work has a long and adventurous life behind it, a weathered skin.
The work of Susanne Silvertant, a lot of times done with the Raku firing technique is in continuous debate with architecture, scale, proportion, harmony, contrasts, line, rhythm all these words from architecture play an important role in her work. Where Raku means happiness, her work reflects that. Also Beatrijs van Reeden is in conversation with architecture, her work is very spatial, builds up from refined and delicate constructions, sometimes transparent, full of contrasts. Working with these elements she tries to share something of her inner emotions to the viewer, an expressive reflection of her inner self.
You think at once of the 17thcentury famous painting of dead rabbits, fish, vegetables, shot birds , when you look at the work of Pauline Wiertz. Her work of sculptural still lives resembles the sumptuous still lives of the Dutch Golden age, very detailed. Multi layered work, A work full of humor and irony, loaded with comments, a work that put your thinking in motion.
Yuk Kan Yeung is crossing borders, combining and experimenting with two and three dimensions at the same time, painting and sculpturing, making objects that change completely if you turn the work around, making space in spaces in spaces. Dynamic objects.
I wish you a lot of inspiration and joy experiencing the exhibition. In this exhibition there is another proof of the famous words of John Keats, a things of beauty is a joy forever.