Bente Skjøttgaard is known for a certain toughness in her work. Yes, there is beauty too, but she takes on difficult themes, marries them to equally challenging processes and pushes toward the edge. Over the last five years she has been working with clouds as her subject. Her solo exhibition at Copenhagen Ceramics (March 27 – April 26, 2014) shows that her work has reached the cumulonimbus stage – the fullest development of the cumulus type. This is when smaller cumulus clouds merge into a bigger formation; the thermal winds increase within and the clouds stack up and rise vertically, heralding bad weather conditions.
Bente Skjøttgaard explains:
“My cloud stacks take scientific source of inspiration and transform them into into personal, imaginary cloud compositions. Somewhere between the recognizable and the undefined. To a certain degree they are figurative.
“I seek to neutralize gravity while occupied with the heaviness of clay. The pivotal point of my work is the natural thermal rising of clouds versus the weight of the clay, and the cloud inspiration continues to provide material for new ceramic ideas: The clouds must be floating and in motion. They should be intense, synthetic marshmallows in psychedelic colours – the colors of the sky: red, orange and purple.
“In short I must defy clay’s physicality yet the result must be highly ceramic. I am looking for a glaze, that seems frayed, crisp and porous to mimic the changeability and volatile volume of clouds. A shimmering mass of electrifying, overexposed, fluffy scrawl, that makes focusing difficult for the eye.
“Clay is initially soft, then hardens during the firing, while a cloud remains inattainable, vaporous and constantly in motion, retaining the ability to transform into something else. This ’non-static-ness’ makes clouds interesting to explore sculpturally, and to relate to as volume, material, motion and colour.”
Skjøttgaard makes rough sketches, but the clouds evolve during construction, partly because they rely on balance and what is actually possible to realize in clay. She is always trying to keep the freshness of the sketch and avoid the objects becoming too rigid as finished results.
The show is a triumph for Skjøttgaard as these forms achieve weightlessness; the forms teeter and are vulnerable. They are not gossamer but they express that quality in sculptural terms. And glazing (or at least the color on the surface) is light, thus, transparent, or, as she terms it, “frayed.”
Over the years, Bente Skjøttgaard has shown her works at numerous exhibitions in Denmark and abroad including Design Miami, USA, 2013 (with Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud); and ‘Aire de Repos’ (solo), Galerie Maria Lund, Paris, 2013.
Her works are represented in many museums and private collections; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Fond National d’Art Contemporain, France; Musée National de Céramique de Sèvres, France; The Danish Arts Foundation; Holstebro Art Museum, Denmark; Erik Veistrup Collection at Museum of International Ceramic Art, Denmark; Annie and Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Foundation, Denmark. In 2005 she was among the first recipients of the Annie and Otto Johs. Detlefs Ceramic Award.
Garth Clark is Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: (Foreground) Bente Skjøttgaard, Cumulonimbus no. 1405. Photograph by Jeppe Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. Image courtesy of the gallery.
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