Royal Copenhagen Ceramic Legacy by Lone Rahbek Christensen
af Aukje Lepoutre Ravn, kurator, mag. art
Siden 1820’erne har den kongelige danske porcelænsfabrik Royal Copenhagen haft tradition for at arbejde sammen med kunstnere. I dag lever traditionen videre med en ambition om at udforske det kreative potentiale af samarbejder, hvor man udveksler idéer og viden om keramisk produktion. Kunstnere inviteres jævnligt til at fabulere over, eksperimentere med og udvikle nye måder at lave keramik på, hvor fabrikken stiller sine egne eksperters faglige viden til rådighed for dem.
I 2017 inviterede Royal Copenhagen den danske billedkunstner Cathrine Raben Davidsen på kunstnerophold i virksomhedens værksted og fabrik i Glostrup. I to år arbejdede Raben Davidsen tæt sammen med fabrikkens eksperter og designere og eksperimenterede med forskellige formgivninger, glaseringer og brændingsmetoder. Samarbejdet resulterede i mere end 150 unikke kunstværker, herunder vaser, kander, lågkrukker og fade. Et udvalg af disse værker præsenteres nu sammen med en række nye malerier, tegninger og grafik på soloudstillingen TOTEM, som kan ses på CLAY Keramikmuseum Danmark fra den 26. januar til den 9. august 2020.
En søgen efter åndelighed
Gennem hele Cathrine Raben Davidsens kunstneriske virke har hendes praksis kredset om store eksistentielle emner som livet og døden. Ud fra en forståelse af livet som en konstant fremadskridende forandringsproces er Raben Davidsen optaget af, hvad det grundlæggende vil sige at være menneske. Ofte med udgangspunkt i åndelige og sjælelige perspektiver undersøger hun, hvordan mennesket på tværs af tid, sted og kulturer er forbundne, men også hvordan denne forbundethed kan indbefatte andre levende organismer. Ved at forbinde vidt forskellige grene af historisk viden med nutidig tænkning er det Raben Davidsens ærinde at udvide og udbygge vores fornemmelse af historiens kontinuitet.
Uden at skele til de traditionelle hierarkier inden for kunst, håndværk, design og andre kreative fagområder arbejder Cathrine Raben Davidsen med en mangfoldig palet af referencer. Hendes værker tager ofte form af malerier, tegninger, grafik eller keramik, men hun indgår også i samarbejder om f.eks. kostume-, scene- og belysningsdesign samt kunstnerbøger. Inspirationen henter hun fra en lang række forskellige visuelle, kunsthistoriske og filosofiske traditioner blandt andet italiensk renæssance, græsk mytologi, ikke-vestlige religioner og trossystemer, moderne naturvidenskab og feministisk litteratur fra det 20 århundrede. Dertil adderer hun altid lag af sine egne personlige erfaringer.
I de seneste år har Raben Davidsen sat fokus på forståelsen af menneskets relation til naturen. Hun reflekterer over det moderne menneskes tab af åndelighed og det ’åndeligt hinsides’. Herigennem overvejer hun, hvordan vi kan blive bedre til at viderebringe livsvisdommen i de gamle erkendelsesteorier, som ikke er præget af vestens kapitalisme.
Animisme og totemisme
Med et ønske om at visualisere og give form til en ny forestilling om et ‘åndeligt hinsides’ har Raben Davidsen ladet sig inspirere af de religiøse og spirituelle traditioner hos urbefolkninger, som kaldes animisme og totemisme. Ordet animisme stammer fra det latinske ‘animus’, som betyder ‘sjæl’ eller ‘liv’. Begrebet animisme blev opfundet af den engelske antropolog Edward B. Tylor (1832-1917) og brugt til at beskrive urbefolkningers trossystemer især i tiden før civilisationen og den organiserede religion fik en fremtrædende status . Helt konkret beskriver animisme et religiøst verdenssyn, hvor alle elementer i naturen omkring os, herunder dyr, planter og til tider ubesjælede genstande eller fænomener, rummer en sjæl. Totemisme er en tradition og praksis indenfor den animistiske trosdyrkelse, som via tilbedelse af symboler, som menes at besidde overnaturlige kræfter, har til formål at samle og styrke en gruppes identitet og samhørighed. Totemmet kan være alt fra et træ eller et dyr til en flod eller et bjerg. Det kan således både være en levende organisme, eller en komposit genstand i naturen.
I forbindelse med sit samarbejde med Royal Copenhagen har Raben Davidsen hentet inspiration i en særlig form for forhistorisk keramik fra Centraleuropa, Mexico og Japan, som er kendetegnet ved modellerede ansigtstræk. Dem, vi kender fra Norden, stammer fra den sene bronzealder og kaldes ‘ansigtsurner’. Raben Davidsen lader sig dog i særlig grad inspirere af tysk stentøj fra det 16. og 17. århundrede. Det er typisk brunt eller gråt saltglaseret keramik med et påført skægget ansigt kendt som ‘Bartman-krukker’, ‘Bellarminer’ eller ‘Gråskæg’ . I nogle regioner refererede man til Bartman-krukkerne som ‘medicinflasker’ eller ‘hekseflasker’, da de antageligt blev brugt i forbindelse med heksekunst. Medicinflaskerne indeholdt væsker såsom alkohol eller kropsvæsker som f.eks. spyt, blod eller urin. Flaskerne og deres indhold blev anvendt i okkulte ceremonier til at uddrive onde ånder og blev således tildelt magiske kræfter.
Myterne omkring disse beholdere indgår direkte i Raben Davidsens egen keramiske skabelsesproces, både formelt og som mytologiske motiver. I udstillingen TOTEM præsenteres keramikken som serier af store og små krukker, vaser og beholdere – nogle med låg og andre uden. De vises opdelt i grupper, der kunne minde om mennesketyper eller familier. De fleste af krukkerne er glaserede i jordfarver som f.eks. rød, grøn, hvid og sort, som alle tillægges symbolsk eller åndelig betydning. Rød associeres med blod, fødsel og liv; sort med styrke, forandring og genfødsel, mens hvid symboliserer renhed og død. Enkelte af de mørkere krukker er udsmykket med 24 karat guld, hvilket får dem til at se ud, som var de ramt af et guddommeligt lys, når man ser dem på afstand.
Den legende lethed, hvormed Raben Davidsen anvender og bearbejder Bartman-keramikkens stilistiske udtryk i sine egne værker, skaber en direkte forbindelse til krukkernes indre magiske verden. Værkerne bliver dermed en hyldest til det spøgelsesagtige, esoteriske og mystiske, der er indlejret i den historiske keramiktradition.
Sjæle i forvandling
Foruden keramikken viser Raben Davidsen på udstillingen TOTEM et udpluk af andre værker i form af nye malerier, tegninger og grafik samt en animationsfilm. Værkernes visuelle formsprog er abstrakt og har en karakter af udflydende lag-i-lag billeder. Den fremherskende motivverden er syntesen af menneske, dyr og kosmos. Man ser slørede malerier af dobbelttydige svævende kroppe, ugler med udkradsede øjne, en sovende hjorteunge, der svæver i luften, fnuglette fugle og æteriske gopler, der bevæger sig i flydende formløse rum.
Farvesætningen i malerierne er mættede jordfarver som f.eks. mørkorange, blodrød, turkisblå og kastanjebrun ikke ulig den chakra-farvede palet, Raben Davidsen tidligere har anvendt. Ud af de mættede farveflader kommer disse fine, næsten usynlige ansigter til syne. De sædvanlige identitetsparametre såsom køn, race eller alder er udviskede. I stedet ses androgyne væsener, der befinder sig uden for tid og rum, tilsyneladende i en tilstand af forandring – på vej mod en ny dimension. Med disse gådefulde og maskeagtige træk ligner ansigterne sjæle på vandring eller ånder fra en anden dimension. Det giver malerierne en drømmeagtig kvalitet og en stærk fornemmelse af åndelig mystik; en materialisering af totemobjektets magi.
Raben Davidsens nyligt producerede animationsfilm Tentacular markerer sig i udstillingen som det eneste levende billede. I den 3 minutter lange sort-hvide film ser vi en flok underfundigt tegnede mælkehvide gopler, som bevæger sig som paraplyformede klokker, der kommer til syne og forsvinder som magiske spøgelsesagtige væsener. I nye lag ser vi skikkelser af fugle, edderkopper og planter, der foretager de samme organiske bevægelser, fra fysisk opløsning til kosmisk integration. Animationen ledsages af et ambient lydspor, som, med sin karakter af en meditation over forvandling, anslår den overordnede lydmæssige stemning i hele udstillingen.
Mange af Cathrine Raben Davidsens temaer smelter sammen i en æterisk åndelighed, der understreger naturens dybe foranderlige kræfter og kosmiske uendelighed. I sit forsøg på at skabe et rum, der fremkalder en magisk atmosfære af tilblivelse og transformation, er TOTEM Cathrine Raben Davidsens hyldest til de frugtbare kræfter i de uhåndgribelige hjørner af vores eksistens; de verdener vi ikke kan bekræfte eller helt forstå; de ‘hinsides verdener’. Tidligere bidrog disse mystiske verdener og esoteriske verdenssyn til at forme menneskets forståelse af subjektivitet og dets forbundethed med naturen. Med TOTEM plæderer Raben Davidsen for, at det bør de fortsætte med at gøre med fornyet styrke – nu og i fremtiden.
Edward B. Tylor: Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy,
Religion, Language, Art and Custom, 1871.
J. H. Macmichael: “The Bellarmine or Greybeard”, Journal of the British Archaeological
Association, Første serie. Årgang 49, 1893, 4. udgave
by Aukje Lepoutre Ravn, curator, mag.art
Dating back to the 1820s the Royal Danish porcelain company Royal Copenhagen has a long-standing tradition of working closely together with artists. Continuing the ambition to explore the creative partnership potential of sharing ideas and knowledge about ceramic production, that tradition lives on today. Contemporary artists are regularly invited to imagine, experiment with and co-develop new ways of making ceramics, using and learning from the technical know-how of the in-house specialists.
In 2017 the Danish visual artist Cathrine Raben Davidsen was invited by Royal Copenhagen to be the artist in residence at the company’s workshop and factory in Glostrup. Over the course of two years Raben Davidsen worked in close collaboration with the ceramic specialists and designers where she experimented with various forming techniques, glazes, and firing methods. The collaboration has resulted in more than 150 unique artworks comprising vases, jugs, lidded jars and plates. Together with a series of new paintings, drawings and prints, a selection of these works is presented in Cathrine Raben Davidsen’s solo exhibition Totem, which will be on view at Royal Copenhagen Flagship store in Copenhagen from February 7 until March 29, 2019.
In search of spirituality
Throughout her artistic career, the work and practice of Cathrine Raben Davidsen (b. 1972) has gravitated towards the larger existential questions of human life and death. Understanding life as an imminent process of continuous transformation, Raben Davidsen explores the essential traits of being human, asking not only how we as humans are connected to each other, but also how these connections extend towards other living organisms and earthly entities. With an elementary curiosity that connects the knowledge of the past with present-day thinking, Raben Davidsen proposes to us, through her art, to broaden and diversify our sense of historical continuity.
Caring little about the traditional hierarchies among fine art, craftsmanship, design and other creative disciplines, Raben Davidsen is concerned in her artistic oeuvre with multiplicity and intertextuality. Drawing on a wide variety of visual and philosophical references – implementing both modern and renaissance art history, ancient mythology, non-western religion, science, 20th century feminist literature along with personal experience – Raben Davidsen juxtaposes loosely connected elements from diverse cultural realms. Her works most often take form as paintings, drawings, prints or ceramics, but she also engages in collaborative formats such as costume-making, stage and lamp design, and artist books.
In recent years, Raben Davidsen has focused her interest on how we perceive and understand mankind’s relationship with nature. She reflects on the modern loss of spirituality and contemplates how we can better pass on the worldly wisdom of ancient epistemologies that are not influenced by the dominant paradigm of Western capitalism.
Animism and totemism
In the pursuit of giving form and visuality to a new notion of a “spiritual beyond” Raben Davidsen draws inspiration from religious and spiritual traditions of indigenous cultures, in particular the belief systems animism and totemism.
The word animism stems from Latin “animus”, which means “soul” or “life”. The concept is related to the early anthropological research of the 19th century, when the English anthropologist Edward B. Tylor (1832-1917) proposed a theory of animism. He described animism as the religious worldview that natural, physical entities, including animals, plants and often even inanimate objects or phenomena, all possess a spiritual essence. The concept of animism is most often used in anthropology to describe the religions of indigenous tribes, especially before the development of civilization and its organized religion.
Ingrained in many animistic cultures is the tradition and practice of totemism. The totem is a symbol of worship that is thought to possess supernatural powers and aims to gather and strengthen a group’s identity and cohesion. The totem may be a tree or an animal or some other natural phenomenon such as a river or a mountain. Each group of people in an animist society may have its own totem and associated ceremonies.
Although the animist communities have often been associated with so-called ‘primitive’ cultures, philosophers and sociologists of today attribute far greater importance to the practices of animism and totemism. Abandoning the colonial pre definitions and seeing animism more generally as a useful and inspirational source of knowledge, it is largely considered a pertinent reference in rethinking the planet’s contemporary ecological challenges.
The magic within ceramics
For the collaboration with Royal Copenhagen, Raben Davidsen has been inspired by prehistoric ceramics from central Europe, Mexico, Japan and a type of stoneware from the late Bronze Age in Scandinavia commonly referred to as ‘face-mask urns’. However, it is the German stoneware from the 16th and 17th centuries that has inspired Raben Davidsen the most. Originally ceramic objects in these German styles were known as ‘Bartmann jugs’, ‘Bellarmines’, or ‘Greybeards’. They were typically made of brown or grey stoneware glazed with salt and were characteristically embossed with a bearded face.
In some regions these containers were also referred to as “medicine bottles” or “witch bottles”, as they were used to practice witchcraft. The medicine bottles were said to contain potent liquids that could consist of abject bodily substances such as saliva, blood, urine, and even of hair. These bottles were assigned magic powers and used in occult ceremonies to expel evil spirits.
The myths around these vessels have fed directly into Raben Davidsen’s processing of her own ceramics – both formally and in their embedded mythological subject matter. In the exhibition Totem, the ceramics are presented in series of large and small jars, vases and vessels – some with lids, some without. They are displayed in categorized groups almost resembling types of people or families. Most of the jars are glazed in earth colours such as red, green, white, and black, all considered as having symbolic or spiritual meanings. Red refers to blood, birth and life; black is associated with power, change and rebirth; and white symbolizes purity and death. Some of the darker jars are decorated with 24 carat gold, making them look as if they have been touched by a gleam of divine light when seen from afar.
By playfully adapting the stylistic expression of the Bartman ceramics, Raben Davidsen creates a direct link with the magical ‘world’ inside the jars and pays homage to the ghostly, esoteric and mystical qualities embedded in the historic ceramic tradition and its cultural use.
Submerged faces and elevated bodies
As an overall project, Totem includes a larger body of work besides the ceramics. Raben Davidsen has also made a series of new paintings, drawings, prints and animation film, all of which together expand her abstract visual language and reach beyond previous motif worlds. The prevailing subject matter in these works is the synthesis of human, animal and cosmos. We encounter shadowy images of ambiguous floating bodies, owls with pierced-out eyes, a young deer hovering in the air with its hooves growing like tree branches, lightweight birds, ethereal jellyfish and whales moving around in liquid, formless spaces.
All of the paintings are soaked in earth colours such as deep oranges, blood reds, turquoise blues and maroon browns from a palette similar to the chakra colours Raben Davidsen has used before. Out of the saturated colour fields, these delicate, almost invisible faces appear. The usual parameters of identity such as gender, race or age seem erased; rather, we see these androgynous creatures outside time and space, ostensibly in a state of flux towards a new dimension. With these enigmatic, mask-like features, the faces look like transitioning souls or spirits inhabiting another dimension in another world. All this gives the paintings a dreamlike quality and a strong sense of spiritual mystique.
In A thousand names for Gaia (2018) we glimpse an angelic face totally submerged in the turquoise colour plane so only the lips and one eye appear clear, and in Sophia (2018) a brown, reddish and ochre palette makes up the abstract landscape. On top of these are watery white dots, looking like a petri dish of bacteria starting to grow over the surface, evoking an impression of organic life in process.
Vehicle (2019) and In and of the Earth (2019) depict two silhouette bodies pushing out of the horizontal space and ascending into the sky. The motifs of the paintings show similarities to the work of the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta, which likewise revolved around the body, nature, and the spiritual connections between them. Her series Silueta (begun in 1973) used a typology of abstracted feminine forms, through which she sought to access an “omnipresent female force”. Mendieta carved and shaped her figures in the earth, with arms overhead to represent the merging of earth and sky; floating in water to symbolize the minimal space between land and sea; or with arms raised and legs together to signify a wandering soul.
Delving deeper into an underworld ambience, the painting Nightshade (2018) depicts a rather aquatic milieu. In the foreground, with white tentacles extended, a floating organism resembling a dissolved jellyfish appears. In the background, from behind a horizontal purple line, the silhouette of a resting androgynous face is rising (or setting) like a sun. The painting seems to suggest the merging of elements as the common source of all living creation, and makes the point that we are all descended from the same biological entity.
Raben Davidsen’s newly produced animation film Tentacular stands out in the exhibition as the only moving image. In the 3-minute black-and-white looping film, we see series of subtly drawn milky-white jellyfish, spreading out their umbrella-shaped bells as they appear and disappear like magical ghostly creatures. Adding more layers we see figures, birds, spiders and plants performing the same organic movements, from physical dissolution to cosmic integration. The animation is accompanied by an underworld-like soundtrack and takes the form of a meditation on transformation.
“To reclaim animism is to recover from the very separation, to regenerate what the separation itself has poisoned, to learn what is necessary in order to inhabit once again what was destroyed, to restore life on what it had been infected, to strive and heal”. – Isabelle Stengers
In Totem many of Cathrine Raben Davidsen’s themes coalesce into an ethereal spirituality; an elegy on the forces of nature and the cosmos. There is a persistent anthropomorphizing quality at play where the attributes of the human, animal and cosmic elements morph into combined subjectivities. The totality of the works evokes an electric atmosphere. By creating a visual language that goes beyond the rationally tangible and comprehensible borderline of subject/object, it calls attention to the magic within the very process of transformation.
This mode of thinking has parallels with the ideas of the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who in the late 1970s developed a concept they called the “rhizome”. The rhizome connects practices, concerns, and heterogenous modes of making sense, without privileging any of these modes. The idea of rhizomatic connections to other practices and entities that likewise explore a metamorphic (rather than a representational) relation to the world is very much a part of animism.
Combining this knowledge of and these references to ritual practices, ancient belief systems and modern philosophy, Totem tells us a story of the fruitful powers of the “worlds beyond” and their rhizomatic and holistic connections. These worlds and worldviews have helped shape human beings’ understanding of their own subjectivity and their relations to their natural surroundings in the past, and should continue to do so with renewed strength in the future!
Ana Mendieta: Ana Mendieta: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1988)
Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato: “Machinic Animism”, 2009.
Anselm Franke (ed.): Animism (Volume I), Sternberg Press, 2010.
Edward B. Tylor: Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom, 1871.
Félix Guattari: The Three Ecologies, translated by Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton, The Athlone Press, 2000 from the original version Les trois écologies, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. and Editions Galileé, 1989.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1987
Isabelle Stengers: “Reclaiming Animism”, in E-flux journal #36, July 2012, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/36/61245/reclaiming-animism/
J. H. Macmichael: “The Bellarmine or Greybeard”, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, First Series. Volume 49, 1893 – Issue 4
Lone Rahbek Christensen, mag.art
Starlit Sky, Butterfly Wing, Clair de Lune, Agouti Gold, Oxblood, Sung and Fang – what a sparkling array of poetic names! It may come as a surprise that they are all names of stoneware glazes created over the past century by Royal Copenhagen. As a historic company it has a huge legacy of knowledge about the production of porcelain, faience and stoneware that makes it a world leader in the field. It has developed over a quarter-millennium during which ten generations of chemists, technicians, craftsmen and artists, often through lifelong activity at Royal Copenhagen, have contributed their outstanding scientific, professional or artistic skills – all with the aim of aspiring to new heights.
Royal Copenhagen has always made use of the way innovation can arise from encounters among a variety of human skills, with artists contributing to the process either as permanent staff or as guests. Many of them have stimulated the company’s scientific and professional staff to produce new, fantastic results. Over the past few years Cathrine Raben Davidsen has been invited to work at the company and to use its legacy to create fine unique ceramic works.
However, the establishment of Royal Copenhagen in 1775 was based on the self-acquired knowledge of a single person. Prior to this the founder, the mineralogist Frantz Heinrich Müller, had conducted scientific experiments to rediscover the recipe for porcelain production. From his fantastic descriptions we know how he struggled with kaolin, feldspar, quartz and cobalt, which came untreated directly from nature to the factory. When Royal Copenhagen began to work in earnest at the beginning of the 20th century with the production of stoneware, it was also a single person who created not only a firing technique but a whole range of glazes. This time it was an artist, the ceramicist Patrick Nordström. He made his own decisions on forms, experimented for himself with glazes made of chemical substances which he received in unweighed form from the factory’s laboratory, glazed his own pieces, and kept a close eye on the process during firing. Patrick Nordström took most of his ideals for stoneware glazes from the French ceramicists’ interpretations of Japanese glazes, and made his own unique stoneware objects of great beauty. When he retired from the factory he left not only a fine intuition for beautiful stoneware as part of the Royal Copenhagen legacy, but also the desire to experiment. Not least he left the glazes themselves, written down in a recipe book that was kept for many years in the factory director’s safe, because it was considered essential to the company’s history and its survival. Among his glazes is Oxblood from 1914. Cathrine Raben Davidsen has worked with Oxblood; not Nordström’s original, but a new one – to which we will return.
After Patrick Nordström the factory’s chemists took over the development of new glazes for a period. They went to work scientifically, used pure chemicals and wanted formulas for the glazes. First they tried to recreate ancient Chinese glaze types, and succeeded for example with Celadon and Claire de Lune. After that they wanted to create brand new glazes, and in the course of the 1930s Solfatara, Agouti Gold and Olivin were created; some of these became famous because they were used by artists associated with the factory such as Axel Salto. Celadon is one of the glazes Raben Davidsen has worked with. This is not the original version either, but a new one.
Among the many people who have later contributed to the creation of the Royal Copenhagen stoneware glazes, the ceramicist Nils Thorsson should be singled out. He went back to experimenting with the chemicals as they occur in nature, not as pure substances, and created among other glazes Butterfly Wing in 1952. Unlike Patrick Nordström, Thorsson experimented in collaboration with the company’s laboratory, especially the chemist Leif Lautrup-Larsen, who himself created the Bear Glaze in 1960. From this, much later, the company’s laboratory director, the chemist Peter Poulsen, developed a new glaze that was given the name Starlit Sky; this too has been used by Cathrine Raben Davidsen.
Many factors make important contributions to the final appearance of the chemical compounds as finished glazes; not only the reactions of the various compounds to one another, but also the grain sizes of the minerals, the thickness of the glaze layer and the firing temperature, the type of kiln, its source of energy and the position of the individual piece among the other things in the kiln. Because the chemicals react so sensitively, the modernization of the manufacturing process has consequences for the glazes. The most important change has been the transition from smaller, coal-burning, specialized kilns to large, gas-burning kilns. This began in 1987, when Royal Copenhagen’s stoneware department had to close because of a declining demand for stoneware. In order to maintain a certain amount of stoneware production the factory chose to make it more efficient in future by firing stoneware in the large, gas-burning production kiln used for the factory’s porcelain production; however, up to 2000 a single small coal-burning kiln was used by the ceramicist Ivan Weiss. But this involved the great problem that all the factory’s glazes had been created for firing in coal-burning kilns and could not be fired in the gas-burning production kiln. The company’s chemist Peter Poulsen succeeded in creating new glazes that are quite different chemically from the old ones, and which have their own identity, but still appear so close to the originals that in everyday speech they are given the same names: Oxblood, Celadon etc. Peter Poulsen has also created a wide range of glazes with brand new appearances for gas-burning kilns, many of which have been used by artists associated with the factory, while hundreds have not yet been used.
Stoneware artists at Royal Copenhagen have had various aims with the appearance they want their ceramics to have. It is said that Patrick Nordström aimed at perfection, while artists from the 1950s on worked to achieve a rustic, informal look.
Cathrine Raben Davidsen wanted an exploratory approach. Royal Copenhagen’s host for collaboration with artists has therefore given her the opportunity to work with all the elements in the process, from the choice of body mass through the form to the chemistry that creates the overall expression of the glaze. The works have been thrown by Bjarne Puggaard, who has contributed to the development of many new forms at Royal Copenhagen. Raben Davidsen has experimented with several of Peter Poulsen’s glazes, such as Oxblood, Celadon and Starlit Sky, as well as a transparent glaze and some that only have recipe numbers. She has also used a range of the oxides which give them colours – and even 24-carat gold – which the factory’s experienced glazer has looked out in the laboratory. As an artist Raben Davidsen has been interested in possible transformations, and found a challenge in the fact that the outcome of the working process was unknown to her; she has therefore not been content to give a piece a single glaze with a subsequent firing which, depending on the proportions in the process, has affected the result. She has experimented with mixing the glaze and oxides wet-on-wet and then having the piece fired, and with applying one layer of glaze or oxide at a time, and then after firing applying yet another layer of the factory’s glaze chemicals, after which the piece has been fired again and has come out of the kiln with a new look. One could almost say that Raben Davidsen has used her forms as three-dimensional canvases and painted on them with glazes and oxides, and fired them – as many as four times – to get appearances with which she was satisfied.
The result is not just fascinating, beautiful and mysterious works; they are also interesting because, thanks to the experimental approach, they bring new expression to the factory’s great heritage of ceramic production.