STUTTGART, Germany — The works of Ute Kathrin Beck, our featured potter for this week in June, transport me somewhere else. Specifically, her creations make me picture a remote lake, drained of all its water. I can smell the ghost of moisture in the air. My boots leave wet impressions in mud that has a cracked, crusty skin. There’s an old mansion at the bottom of the lakebed, it’s walls slick with algae.
Above image: Ute Kathrin Beck, Sissi tin, 2014, stoneware porcelain, 16 x 11 x 13 cm. Photographs by Frank Kleinbach.
Beck’s vessels are the sort of things you’d find inside. Their slender, claw-like feet look aquatic, inspired by marine life that may have once crawled across the lake bed. Whoever lived in the mansion identified with the creatures, so much so that they set paintings of themselves into their spiny carapaces.
The most mysterious works of the bunch, though, are her Sissi vases and vessels. These are adorned with eroded porcelain faces, which look as though they may open their mouths to speak with one voice at any moment. These seem charged with some esoteric purpose. That purpose is forgotten now, but perhaps it could be rediscovered.
The artist describes her work in her biography:
Her inventive ceramic vessels are impressive thanks to the unity and dynamism of form and sculptural ornament. Ute Kathrin Beck avails herself of the freedom to create sculptures that still allude to containers, yet evoke diverse associations through their physicality and imagery. Primordial marine animals are suggested by the three-footed pieces that earned her Baden-Württemberg’s state prize in 2012, while her “Sissi” vases interpret a popular theme in recent culture. This ceramist is clearly inspired by playing with formal and imagistic references and by the dialogue between shimmery inner surfaces and matte exteriors decorated with porcelain slips or metal oxides. Practical containers become cult objects and ornamental pieces which are simultaneously archaic and contemporary. Each creation expresses her distinctive view while inspiring and disconcerting its viewers.
I wouldn’t say I’m disconcerted, that implies doubt that is just at the threshold of fear. Rather, I get a sense of loneliness overshadowed by mystery. There’s caution, but it wouldn’t stop me from exploring every room. Enjoy this gallery we’ve assembled and let us know where her vessels take you in the comments.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
We’ll be back in a week with more featured contemporary ceramics from the best studio potters we can find!