Copenhagen-based ceramist Morten Løbner Espersen has an exhibition beginning this month at Brutto Gusto in Berlin. “Die Sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins)” will run Sept. 12 through Oct. 31 and showcases the maker’s exquisite glaze work. In addition to his lush, arresting glazes, Espersen eloquently uses prose to describe his process. Read more about that in this issue.
The following essay, provided by the gallery, was written by Ernst van Alphen, professor of literary studies at Leiden University:
The deadly sin Morten Løbner Espersen commits most often, the one he revels in, is gluttony, in the sense of immoderateness. His approach to ceramics is utterly baroque. This can best be explained by describing his work in terms of the different ‘genres’ he has developed. The first of these are sober vessels, minimalist containers, which are, however, the support for the most excessive glazes. He builds up the skin of his vessels with multiple glazes, often in exuberant colours. The many layers of glaze run and trickle across the vessel, creating folds, bubbles, hills and holes. They leave traces like snails do. Some glazes are almost transparent, revealing other glazes beneath, whereas others are opaque and absorb the light and colour of the glazes they cover. They are always abundantly material and heavy.
In the second genre, the Horror Vacui series, Espersen zooms in on the skin. The glazes are no longer just the covering of a vessel: they overgrow rankle the vessel and become its form. This baroque transformation is like the gaze of a viewer who follows the folds of a curtain: the gaze is not stable; it moves and has no vanishing point. The subject and object of the gaze are completely entangled. Proportion and scale play a fundamental role in this endless transformation.
The third genre is the result of a further zooming in on the most basic material element of the glaze: the drip. It is as drip that the glaze shows its materiality most abundantly. Only then is it heavy. But the drip is put on a pedestal: it is reversed, it stands rather than hangs, and looks, one might say, like a mushroom. Glaze has been promoted to form. The container has been swallowed by it.
From the gallery:
As with his (the artist’s) earlier works, the quest for the perfect glaze is absolutely central to Espersen’s practice. Having confined himself almost exclusively to cylindrical forms since the turn of the millennium, Morten Espersen created the series Horror Vacui in 2011. In that series the works did not just receive a glaze – the glaze also sprouted into totally weird organic forms so that the tension between vessel and surface came into its own even more. Since then the forms have taken on a life of their own to such an extent that there is no more vessel. The skin, shed like that of a snake, survives on its own.
In parallel the artist has turned his serious attention to the vessel-form once more. In this he has left behind the cylindrical form and firmly addresses the famous vessels of his predecessors. For the viewer, however, the role models quickly slip into the background in the light of the unique surface.
Morten Løbner Espersen (b. 1965 in Aalborg, DK) lives and works in Copenhagen and is represented by several galleries in Brussels, San Francisco and New York. His works have been displayed at Tefaf Maastricht as well as Art Basel Miami. They are found in many collections, such as Museum Boijmans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (NL), Museum of Decorative Arts, Copenhagen (DK), Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (SWE), Victoria & Albert Museum, London (UK), and The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park (JAP).
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