Aficionados of ceramics obviously know Puls Contemporary Ceramics, the gallery opened some fifteen years in the Châtelain district by Dane Annette Sloth. This platform for artists in this discipline, on the border between design and art, defends both established artists and emerging artists, with a patience and passion recognized by collectors worldwide.
Both strong and fragile, clay, be is as white as kaolin, as brown as earthenware, liquid or malleable, is subjected to trial by fire. The trial by ordeal – or trial by fire – was an ancient judicial practice steeped in religious beliefs to test the guilt or innocence of the accused, based on the principle of judicium Dei, or judgement from God. It consists in subjecting the accused to a test whose outcome, determined by God, will decide whether the person is innocent. The kiln’s fire – perhaps just as divine! – turns the piece of clay into something solid, durable, set in a state which, among other qualities, is resistant to water. An ancient craft, used since prehistoric times to make containers, pottery is both infinitely simple and archaic – two of the basic elements: earth and fire – and extremely sophisticated. It’s probably all of these technical and historical aspects, complemented by contemporary artists’ precise integration in the here and now which make ceramic works so fascinating.
Pálma Babos (1961, Hungary), winner of several international awards in ceramics and industrial design, builds fragile towers out of white porcelain, which she sometimes calls Tour or Couple or Nuages. At the same time buildings and networks, structures and columns, these towers look like they are about to collapse. This subsidence takes place between the white porcelain mesh and the spaces between each thin glazed sliver. Firm and ethereal. Solid and hollow. Presence and absence. The moment before a dramatic event is frozen in these works. Gracefully yet inexorably. Some towers seem to dance, others have started to fall. The viewer connects effortlessly with these pieces which are both strong and weak. It looks like, here, we can store our most ambivalent thoughts between two thin strips of porcelain, our desire to survive and our pulsion to end it all, our desire to keep standing or else to lie down with relief.
Kim Jin Eui (1977, South Korea) lives and works in Great Britain. His works play with the muted tones of the slip, know as the engobe, which is a thin coating, made of diluted coloured clay, applied to a ceramic piece that has been fired once to change its natural colour. Again, ancient techniques mingle with high-tech effects, as the artist creates optical illusions with perfectly shaped circles that trick our vision. Like targets, his pieces – some round and flat to hang on a wall, other circular and high which open like boxes – deploy their mysterious presence, half-way between everyday objects and strange UFOs. That’s what makes them beautiful.
Puls Contemporary Ceramics
19 rue du Page
Until 20 February
Wednesdays – Saturdays, from 13:00 to 18:00