Ceramic Art That Reveals an Unspoken Secret: Maria Angquist Klyvare

Article excerpt


THE CERAMIC ARTIST MARIA ANGQUIST KLYVARE, received a commission in China. In 2005 she would do a piece of art--a permanent wall in the Fuping ceramic art museum. Klyvare has for many years shown an excellence in constructing images made of tiles in different sizes. Her images become dissolved into shades of colours when you come close to them. When you look at them from a distance they turn into photorealistic impressions. The message is that you need the distance in order to reflect and really understand. The wall she would do in China was representing the Swedish landscape. She went to Fuping where this Swedish contribution can now been seen.

In China Klyvare discovered another story than the one about the graceful Swedish nature. She got in touch with a secret that nobody talked about. Every day 3,200 small (birth to four years old) female children disappear. Children whose only mistake was to be born with the wrong gender. The Chinese cultural values, like many other cultures in the world, place boys first. In fact in China, it is understandable. Without a son the parents will have no economic security in their old age. The son carries on the family. When married, a daughter on the other hand, belongs to another family, to another group. Of course, this is a trauma in a country where families are forbidden to have more than one child. What happens to the small girls is veiled in obscurity. In more or less cruel ways they disappear or never get registered. This is not discussed.

"This can't be accepted. This must be discussed", Klyvare told herself. "This is frightening." The feeling penetrated her so intensely that pictures started to grow from her subconscious mind. A mop swept over the floor in slow motion. Time after time, silently and implacably it was wiping the floor. It was something that was washed away.

She decided to use the language she knows best--communication in clay. The result is a spatial drama, where the different parts act with each other and elevate different aspects that strengthen the message.

The three meter long broom in black ceramic with thin pigtails of human hair, is a witness in itself in Klyvare's exhibition China girl. Back in Sweden Maria realized this exhibition, which is now travelling to museums and art galleries all around Sweden. The objects and the sculptures are signs of a tragedy of fate. Two films accompany them, one about small Chinese girls and their thoughts about the future and the other about adult females' dreams and imaginations about their lives.

There is also a big black water bucket in stoneware, called the Wishing Well--a symbol for the bucket that by tradition is placed next to the childbirth bed in the Chinese countryside. A film is projected in Maria's bucket. We see a face turned toward us, but unreachable. Next to this sculpture, eight white one-metre high girl sculptures are standing, named The Army of Unblessed Souls. Their eyelids are half-closed as if they have seen too much. Their bodies are made from crunch dry snow-white china clay, fired at 1240 c. degrees. This is an expressionless material that in itself abstracts and spiritualises. The white surface is intensified by pitch-black tufts of hair applied on the heads. These sculptures are produced in three parts in order to be movable. The heads are nodding as if they were forced to accept an inevitable destiny. Yes--puppets ... A ceremony of mourning ... At the same time their half-closed eyelids turn them into ghostly beings.


Firmly wound in black rubber swaddling clothes there is a child with a turnable head. …