Watt’s Up? Ceramics and Light / Bernardaud Foundation, Limoges, France
June 13 - November 29, 2014
Watt’s Up? explores the relationship between ceramics and light by presenting some thirty works of art from all over the world, all created in recent years. Oddly enough, this relationship seems to inspire artists more than designers, trained to create objects such as lamps. Perhaps that’s because light transcends objects and gives us a whole new take on the world. Light affects our vision by modifying our perception of space and movement. In addition, there is a symbolic, poetic and mysterious element to it. As the French author Jean Giono once put it, very clever mysteries hide in the light. If light and ceramics go hand in hand, it’s mainly courtesy of porcelain’s unique properties of translucency, which can give light – produced by a candle or a tungsten filament – a soft, poetic aura and elicit a feeling of wonder. Ceramics offers a broad palette of sensations to play with. Faience is heavy, glossy and sensual in its interaction with light. Pottery absorbs lux units and asserts its own material plasticity to counter the intangible nature of light. Porcelain is lightweight and translucent, and the matte aspect of unglazed biscuit forms a striking contrast with the gloss of the glaze. Watt’s Up? is an unprecedented investigation of the latest innovations and know-how, both sensorial and intellectual in scope. As the topic was complex and broke new ground, it took nearly two years of research to bring these thirty or so works together. These works are by fifteen artists exhibiting for the first time in France. They are the result of technical prowess – manual and technical – as well as fresh creative thinking. None of them represent any particular school of thought, creative trend or artistic movement. Each work is an explosion of creativity, born of the artist’s reflections and inspiring a sense of wonder. This exhibition sheds new light on the art of ceramics.
Curated by Cédric Morisset
A double major in art history and cultural management, Cédric Morisset started out in contemporary art and gravitated towards design. He then moved into curating art shows, starting in 2003 at the invitation of the international design biennial in Lisbon and continuing in this line of work for several exhibitions presented in France and other countries, including French Reference (Shanghai and Canton, 2008), Icons of Design (Sao Paulo, 2009) and Nouvelle Vague (Milan, 2011 and 2013). Cédric Morisset contributes articles on design to AD magazine and the daily newspaper Le Figaro on a regular basis. From 2010 to 2012, he served as head curator for the annual AD Interieurs exhibition held by AD magazine. Since 2013, Cédric Morisset has headed the design department at the PIASA auction house in Paris.
Frances & Dominic Bromley, Shoal 1672, 2008, Natural unglazed English fine bone china © Mark Wood Photography
Frances & Dominic Bromley
Since Frances & Dominic Bromley started their design studio Scabetti in 1999, their work in ceramics has earned considerable critical acclaim in the UK and across the world. Their designs are light, precise and elegant, and realised in fine bone china in their studio in Leek, North Staffordshire. Their first venture into light sculpture in 2004, was inspired by moths being attracted to candle light. Drawn to the Light, was composed of sculpted curved elements made out of bone china which appeared to be floating around the central light source. During London’s Design Festival in 2007, the couple presented Shoal, a suspended light sculpture suggesting a school of fish with more than 1500 bone china elements. These pieces paved the way for a series of bespoke commissions, which are now a Scabetti specialty. One commission for the International Maritime Organisation had 3,434 stylised bone china anchors arranged in a 5m tall sculpture and is on permanent display at their London Headquarters. Frances & Dominic Bromley have created Ascension especially for the Watt’s Up exhibition and their imagination has reached new heights. This new installation, made of English fine bone china, features hundreds of human forms that seem to be rising through the air towards the light. The creative talent of this design duo has added poetry to technical expertise.
Frances Bromley (b. 1969) and Dominic Bromley (b. 1971) majored in Industrial Design at Brunel University, London. They live and work in Leek, near Stoke-on-Trent, England.
Jeremy Cole, Cymbidium chandelier, 2012, Porcelain © Lindsay Keats
The master artisan from New Zealand has been highly sought-after by the luxury sector since 2005. His remarkable porcelain lighting fixtures are inspired by the plant kingdom (e.g. flax, aloe vera, a chyrsalis or orchids). In his studio on the other side of the world, he creates beautifully crafted masterpieces that end up in Bulgari or Harry Winston show windows or at Four Seasons hotels. His unique lamps feature spectacular, poetic forms that imitate Nature; his magical lighting can make them look stylish, disturbing or amusing. And the porcelain orchids in his hanging lamp Cymbidium Orchid actually look dead until the light is turned on, making them come vibrantly alive.
Born in 1973 Jeremy Cole is a self-taught artists. He lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.
Coup de foudre: Goedel Vermandere & Jan Arickx, La Vierge, 2010, Porcelain © Peter Verplancke
Coup de foudre: Goedel Vermandere & Jan Arickx
Goedel Vermandere used to teach school but became a ceramic artist in the mid 2000s. In 2004, she met an event planner named Jan and it was love at first sight… including at the professional level. As a design team, they went on to create light sculptures from cast porcelain that were remarkable for their sensuous quality and their harmony. The pair also works in steel, copper, stainless steel, paper and tree bark. They are always experimenting with new techniques to illuminate porcelain’s transparence more effectively, express a feeling of warmth and fulfillment, and open up new horizons.” Their creations – whether a hanging lamp forming a horizontal line in space, a standing lamp like a totem pole or a suspended lamp as round as a full moon – are striking for their simplicity and originality. One reason is that each of their pieces, which are fired gradually, starting at a low temperature and building up to 1260°C, is fashioned from hundreds of translucent porcelain petals and gives off a soft, romantic light. This talented twosome knows how to use technical skill to create poetry.
Goedel Vermandere (b. 1969) is a school teacher trained in ceramics at Syntra-West, Bruges. Jan Arickx (b. 1959) is an event planner. They live and work in Courtrai, Belgium.
Pucci de Rossi, Cartona, 2007, Porcelain © Made
Pucci de Rossi
Born in Verona, Italy, the artist and designer Pucci de Rossi moved to Paris in 1979. In step with the Memphis Art Movement, launched in Italy in 1981, he influenced the European art and design scene of the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout his career, he developed the wildly poetic side of his nature, not to mention his unbridled imagination. Constantly seeking to reinvent and reinterpret, he liked to use ordinary materials like lead or cardboard to create elegant, highly imaginative objects, and to turn preconceived ideas upside down. Poking fun at the “art or design” controversy, which is still raging, the artist gave everyday objects an ironic narrative treatment that rendered them precious. In the last decade, De Rossi exhibited at art galleries in Paris, such as Catberro, Downtown (François Laffanour) and Anne de Villepoix. Not only did his work impress collectors, but creations bearing his signature made their way into the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. His designs were produced by the editor Made who suggested In 2001 to release limited editions of his one-off objects. Among the latter were Dondola (rocking chair with book shelf, 2004) and his Cartona lamp (2005), which is presented in this exhibition and pays tribute – whether intentionally or not – to Arte Povera. Using fine porcelain to imitate humble cardboard, this creation flirts with contrasts and brings a little whimsy to everyday life.
Pucci de Rossi, 1947-2013
Bernadette Doolan, Nostalgia, 2008, Porcelain © Rory Nolan
For more than fifteen years, the Irish artist Bernadette Doolan has been creating works marked by their intimacy. She sets out to capture and express emotions in porcelain and bronze as well as in her paintings. “My work focuses on life, from the cradle to the grave and everything in between… on our dreams, desires and fears” she explains. The work presented in this show is an assemblage of illuminated box panels using engraved porcelain, which looks different depending on whether the lights are on or off. The artist is interested in our memories and in the motifs, landscapes and impressions stored in our subconscious. “I use objects that are meaningful in a personal way, such as the lace from a First Communion dress, to print on the porcelain surface,” comments Bernadette Doolan. “Sometimes, I even use plastic bubble-wrap, because I love the sound that the bubbles make when they pop!” When the panels are illuminated, the pattern communicates the emotions inherent in the private experience to the viewer.
Born in 1973 Bernadette Doolan is a self-taught artist. She lives and works in Wexford, Ireland.
Volker Haug, Rudolf, 2012, Porcelain © Paul Allister
Based in Melbourne, Australia, the German-born designer Volker Haug designs one-off artisanal lighting creations. He got the idea for his clever Rudolf pendant from the double adaptors to be found on plastic lights in Berlin. The designer amused himself dreaming up all sorts of combinations. After a trip to Milan and a conversation with Ingo Maurer, a master of lighting design, Volker Haug returned to Australia determined to use porcelain for his Antler line. Rudolf revisits traditional chandelier design by assembling porcelain modules in every direction, combining industrial style with porcelain craftsmanship; modularity with unity.