PORTSMOUTH, U.K. — We’ve covered the deceitfully bright installations of 2015 Jerwood Prize winner Malene Hartmann Rasmussen before. The colorful, almost animated ceramics she exhibits often conceal a darker narrative which can be revealed the longer one explores her work. Her stories are delivered through fairy tale tropes. This allows the viewer to start at a place of relative familiarity and comfort, just before Rasmussen leads them into deeper unreality, a murky place of storytelling archetypes that smile at the viewer with gleaming teeth.
Her latest exhibition, Waldeinsamkeit, is currently on view at Aspex gallery (Portsmouth, April 2 — June 19). The gallery calls the exhibition “a mash-up wonderland” that merges applied art, design and fine art. The resulting installation includes furniture designs, digitally-printed fabrics and wallpaper based on photographic interpretations of hand-modeled ceramics. The show is an experiment for the artist, who recently became fascinated by faux two-dimensional elements. Aspex writes:
“Utilizing traditional craft skills, technology, tactility and texture to achieve a trompe l’oeil effect in a collection of multi-dimensional works, Malene has created a stunning, absorbing and uncanny experience.”
Along with the exhibition announcement, Rasmussen included a short description of the processes at work in the show. As we’ve come to expect from her, she dropped a few tantalizing narrative details about the story she’s telling. She always approaches this with discretion, giving just enough away to get our gears spinning. She then judiciously steps back and gives you space to explore on your own. She respects your autonomy in that regard, but she also makes no guarantees for your safety. So be careful. The trolls are back.
She describes her exhibition:
The German word Waldeinsamkeit is made up by a merge of the words Wald (Eng: Wood) and Einsamkeit (Eng: Loneliness), it describes the solitude feeling of being all by yourself in the Woodlands and is the title of my latest solo show at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth.
Since my graduation from Royal College of Art with the installation “If I Had A Heart I Could Love You”, my interest in Trompe L’oeil and the idea of incorporating obviously faux two-dimensional elements into my sculptural installations have grown stronger and the work with how the dimensions intertwine and communicate, have become an important part of my practice.
“Waldeinsamkeit” focus on my work with photographic reinterpretation of the ceramic medium for use in pattern design for wallpapers and textiles. The digital tools are used to create work that clearly is hand-made, but through the photographic medium and Photoshop is transformed into something completely different and more difficult to read. The ceramic objects undergo a material metamorphosis, traveling through many mediums, from sculptural ceramics, to a pattern, then via the photographic medium to a print, binding tactility and technology with traditional craft skills, in the creation of a new narrative expression.
The Show is a staged narrative that merges Applied Arts, Design and Fine Art. The viewer travel through an uncanny wonderland of figurative sculpture, furniture and interior designs, based on photographic reinterpretations of ceramic objects. “Waldeinsamkeit” is also the story about my creative process and my work approach and make use of the exhibition design as an explanatory tool throughout the whole show. An example is the 3.6 m. tall scenic trees. The origin of them are smaller hand modeled terracotta trees, that reappear in a diorama forest scene in the opposite end of the exhibition space. My process and stories are in this way shared with the viewer through visual perception and ceramic poetry.
Text (edited where noted) and photographs courtesy of the gallery and the artist.
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