Aage Birck: Imaginary Myths

By Tolstrup, Lisbeth | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Aage Birck: Imaginary Myths


Tolstrup, Lisbeth, Ceramics Art & Perception


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THE WORK OF AAGE BIRCK FORMS BIG VIVID CIRCLES embracing ideas, registration and feelings. The ideas are often products of his artistic intellect, later materialized through the hard work in the studio. In this phase it is a personal movement with no limits or borders. Birck explores his material, as he has been doing for more than 40 years, he challenges his forms and he develops his glazing--if any. In this context I have focused on three major ideas, or series in progress: The Forgotten Tools, The Ritual Axes and Jars, and The Faceted Vases.

The Forgotten Tools

It appears to be a paradox. The easier it is to get access to information, the more we seem to forget. Written words, knowledge of craftsmanship or simple know-how tend to disappear in the search for effects, glamour or prestige. At the same time another tendency can be seen: The tendency of relating--relating the myths and stories from the past to modern media such as film, Internet or music videos. Very often, the result is that we lose our collective awareness and instead have to construct new understandings, some of them closely related to our own history.

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Birck is a collector, he keeps finding things, objects and ready-mades. Being a ceramist he also collects knowledge of clay, glazing and how to experiment with his primary media, the clay and the firing. Being a committed cosmopolitan, he also collects tools from almost forgotten cultures within the field of crafts. In his collection are reminiscences of the culture of woodwork, the culture of textile craft and the culture of hunting, to mention a few. I never asked him, but maybe his fascination with these things comes from his strong sense of registration and his ongoing need for expression.

He sees and feels the form, whether he finds it or he creates is. He identifies the beauty of the tool and thereby the evolution behind the form. He could choose to leave it there. Make a nice little exhibition in a corner of his studio and then enjoy the beauty of each collected piece. But that is not enough. He absorbs the form, he is challenged to build a new identity within each piece by combining it with his own artistic expression. The forgotten tools are lifted from their origin to a new life as part of unique sculptures. A plane becomes part of sculpture in salt glazed stoneware. A fork for cord making rises like a tower on a imaginary church. Or a symbol of natural power in nature, the curved tooth from a wild boar grows into a new sculptural position formed by Birck. Maybe the origins of the tools fade away, but instead we witness perfect metamorphoses, raised in respect of tradition.

The Ritual Axes and Jars

In working with art it is obvious that almost every piece of expression, whether a painting, a sculpture or an installation, consists of a minimum of three layers. The primary layer is what could be looked upon as form. And with a respectful glimpse at the methods of Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968), the old art historian, the next layer requires knowledge of history, myths and ancient culture. In one of his former catalogues, Birck pictures a Ritual Axe from Polynesia. This could lead to the presumption that he wants to identify a piece like that as a basis for further work. But it is not as simple as that. From the clear inspiration he works on, sometimes for years, always in a personal kind of chain where one link is being developed as a consequence of the former. In that, he is still exploring his own means of expression.

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