Terres Extremes-Four Artists

By Batlle, Michel | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2007 | Go to article overview
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Terres Extremes-Four Artists


Batlle, Michel, Ceramics Art & Perception


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THE MAISON DE LA CERAMIQUE CONTEMPORAINE DE Giroussens, France presented four artists where a part of their work is to have pushed clay to the limits of physical possibility, to the most extreme state of fragility, exuberance and rupture.

Terres Extremes could be the keyword for the preoccupations of today's artists, going to the limit, totally assimilating technique in order to forget it and, at the same time, develop a new language for new forms.

Although a long time ago, Bernard Dejonghe followed another direction in his work with glass, he never abandoned clay and his habitual stoneware: rectangular, ovoid, round and flattened shapes, made his reputation at the beginning of the '70s. They still emerge from reduced copper as Chinese reds. That which we named 'tortoises' yesterday, are today, Neolithic axes, entitled Areshima. This is not a Japanese word but Touareg, the name of an area north east of Agadaz, Niger, where the caravans begin their journey into the vast Tenere desert to collect salt at Bilma, a distance of 750 km. In this region Dejonghe discovered fine, regular and rare green jasper stone discs in the oval shape of the rising or setting sun, for which their use is unknown. Everywhere axes, arrows, grindstones, our habitue of the Sahara, while searching for a mythic meteorite with Theodore Monod in Mauritania saw, with intuition, life as it was 5000 years ago when everything was still green. Just like these objects of antiquity, his works are the milestones of his life. He wrote nearly 30 years ago: "The link between my life and my work has become more important than a simple plastic motivation ... my goal is not, under any pretext, to make that which one calls beautiful objects, to flatter the eye ... it is to arrive at a strong, silent presence which no longer has need of myself for their existence and which touchs something inside the spectator ... "

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It is in the density of the story then, where the work of Dejonghe is to be found, that of humanity and his own. Each of his works is like an essential summary. Thus this shape with which he speaks, halfway between the shell of the golden crab and the axe, carved and polished in hard stone, is not only about combat but also the philosopher's stone, between stele and tomb, mute but radiant form. These Areshima become, in their turn, not only mysterious questioning but also tools for meditation.

Practising art and the desire to overcome technical difficulty has led certain artists on to paths, of which they had never even suspected their existence, towards revolutionary experiences. Some remain concentrated on technical feats, others, as Arnold Annen, go beyond this and reveal refinement and the infinitely fragile, a raw force of light.

Porcelain itself never doubts the limits of its capacity to be stretched, pinched, overheated "to show off on parade like a great lady in her wedding dress." Following the example of Richard Sera where certain of his sculptures play with or make fun of danger, that is to say, their smallest point of equilibrium is a vehicle of emotion, Annen presents large bowls as thin as eggshell where the blowtorch has overheated certain areas, creating translucent haloes and perforation. Sorts of milky witches' mirrors worn by centuries of wind, protective envelopes, smooth or prickly porcelain gourds, bleached skeletons of those pure mechanical objects of our industrial eras; cones which have the power of stone or concrete; when set on the ground, are they archaeological objects or futuristic apparatus?

These volumes, some which evoke the transparency of a sunfish, that poor animal sacrificed for luminaries to enliven the home, could be linked to the 'new English sculpture' movement which in the beginning of the '80s had led to a new vision of volume, humour and technology, breaking away from immobility and the vertical.

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