Marie Torbensdatter Hermann exhibition / Galerie Nec, Paris October 26 - November 24, 2012
"The work reflects on some kind of strange family of domestic objects, they are bound together by a form of action, something undefinable but with a hint of a purpose. As if they are there for one very specific reason, each with a small specific individual function, but on their own they are un-significant, it is as a group how they become useful and self-sufficient. It is in the choice of grouping certain objects with each other and in the spacing of them, that they come into existence. I also see a big part of my practice as an arranger. Someone arranges objects and creates small details, small shots taken from a lager scenario. As if we have the time line in constant flux, I make the decision on where to cut out one image and create that as a memory of what ones was, before it moved on to become something else." Marie T. Hermann
“Looking around Marie T. Hermann’s most recent exhibition of work, we may well have a similar feeling: that we are in the presence of pots that don’t quite need us. They are just fine on their own, thank you. Poised atop their handmade clay shelves, microcosms like the implacably calm still life paintings of Morandi, or set out in a neat ring on the gallery floor, these ceramic sculptures have a quiet assurance, an ease that belies the difficulty of their own making.
You almost have to remind yourself that it’s by no means easy to create this sense of completeness. The usual way of doing it is to make objects that are resolutely alien to everyday experience: the abstract geometries of De Stijl, the weird and hermetic object-poems of the Surrealists, the industrial quality of Minimalist sculpture, or the unearthly light and space created by artist James Turrell. While Hermann’s work is influenced by all of these art historical references, she appeals to something more humble and humane than any of them. As is true of most potters, even those working in the manner of installation artists, daily use is constantly at issue for her – either as a haunting presence or a conspicuous absence. The inclusion of two plates, one sunk into its shelf and the other just emerging, gratifies our expectations on this score, even as the closing off of vases at the mouth refuses it.
While her commitment to achieving a unified aesthetic impression is total, it seems to me that her greatest interest as an artist comes at the level of the detail. Yes, she knows she must (according to some modernist logic) ‘earn’ the right to create an interesting shape, like a sharp break in the profile of a vase, or a gentle curve in the rim of a plate. For her, these subtle touches have to make sense within an overriding context.
You take your inspiration from nature. You are not just making a superficial observation, but you conduct a research of the things hidden to the naked eye. Tell us more about the universe you have discovered through your explorations.
I am fascinated by the natural world in its widest sense and at all levels. An interest in the nature of time - the past, present and future has led me to investigate multiverse theory and hidden dimensions - concealed worlds. From there I began to examine nature on a microscopic and nano scale. I became fascinated by the concept of the unseen and rendering it seen.
One of the subjects I investigated was that of diatoms, especially fossil diatoms. Invisible to the naked eye, beautiful and structurally complex I discovered them to bevery significanting the field of paleoclimatology - they are an important indicator of climate change.
I like to select various aspects of the natural world and then examine them on both a macroscopic and microscopic level, considering them in terms of their relationship to time and how they relate to other parts of the universe.
Intricate but also delicate, your work seems to be obtained through a very meticulous process. What materials and techniques do you use and how much time does it take to complete a new piece?
Porcelain is the clay I favor - I particularly like ‘Southern Ice White’ which was developed by the Australian ceramicist Les Blakebrough. In general, the works are handbuilt; occasionally I use slip in a free but controlled way, sometimes combining it with fine glass fibre. I like to push the material beyond its perceived boundaries. The characteristics of porcelain mean that it requires careful handling throughout the making process and control and accuracy with firing and cooling.
I often incorporate extraneous materials once the piece is fired such as metal, monofilament, fibre or horsehair. These elements add richness to the work.
A new piece can take up to two weeks to make, depending on its complexity and it can take a further week or two to construct and apply other elements. I work intuitively when I am making, drawing on my research and bringing all the experiences together.
Both science and art are a way of looking at the surrounding environment. What do you think is their meeting point? What kind of form of knowledge is art?
I often find myself working with scientists on projects and I think the two disciplines have many aspects in common. They both help us to understand the world around us. They both rely on investigation and imagination – the ‘what if?’ principle.