Bente Skjøttgaard: Tableaux is on view at Galerie Maria Lund, Paris
November 7, 2021 – January 8, 2022
The tableau or tableau vivant designates a type of theater, where actors are immobilized as a silent image for a brief instant on a set, usually inspired by History. In the science field, the word tableau (table) refers to a structured presentation of a specific topic in images, words or numbers. Tableaux by Bente Skjøttgaard brings to life both these definitions.
During the second half of the 19th century, German biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) – fervent Darwinian and inventor of the concept of ecology – explored, among other things, the submarine world. In his book Art Forms in Nature (1904), tables (tableaux) inventory beings that live in the depths. These stunning and very detailed drawing boards have always fascinated Bente Skjøttgaard, who drew inspiration from them to create the works shown in Tableaux. Her attention focused more particularly on the large family of cnidaria. These invertebrates symbolize the beginning of life and movement, as well as 500 years of evolution. Graceful and fearsome, they can be classified into two main categories: the polyps (sea anemones, corals) and medusa (jellyfish) – some species alternate between these two states. These acephalan simple beings – a stomachal cavity connected to a mouth – possess a venomous system that serves both as a defense and as a way to catch their prey… The tentacles’ fluid and catchy ballet is in fact a fatal dance.
Bente Skjøttgaard’s works do not try to copy the natural world; they draw inspiration from it to create what is simultaneously concentrations of shapes, sensations and impressions. Extraordinary glazes are spread on the bases and morph into lights, colors, textures, making a parallel world come to exist. The artist thus wants to draw attention to the richness of a fragile environment – in which Mankind is only one species among others – where complex and close-knit relations are at stake. Bente Skjøttgaard takes up the theme of her exhibition Look at me! (2018), in which small jellyfish Mnemiopsis leidyi, an invasive species, were the emblem of a contemporary reality where correlations (unconscious or accidental) with natural equilibriums can cause disasters for the entire realm of the living.
But Tableaux remains nonetheless a feast – a celebration of different types of beauty, extravagance, imagination and a certain humor. By strolling between the tableaux of the exhibition, where in turns are visible, in little groups, natural vases caught in the current, high-headed carbon molecules and the wide-open mouths of ‘gourmet-greedy’ anemones, one understands that Bente Skjøttgaard shares her anxiety with us, but also delivers a tender yet attentive point of view.
As a proud ceramicist, she enjoys creating and defying her matter, searching for lightness and movement when the clay shows to be both dense and static. As always, the kiln and the heat, temperamental and unpredictable collaborators, maintain the artist in her role as an explorer who marvels at surprises and unknown possibilities. Soil and sea come together in this ensemble: detours, textures and blue-green Art Nouveau hues neighbor families of fluorescents and asserted pastels, even chalky surfaces with more muted tones.
An internationally renowned artist, Bente Skjøttgaard (born in 1961 in Denmark) is also a particularly dynamic figure in the world of ceramics: co-founder of the SuperFormLab at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, member of the troika that initiated the exhibition platform Copenhagen Ceramics (2011-), she is also part of the team behind the new window for ceramics Peach Corner in Copenhagen (2021-).
In France, her sculptures have joined the collections of the MAD – Musée des arts décoratifs, the Fond national d’art contemporain, SEVRES – the Musée National de la Céramique, the Musées de Châteauroux and a number of public European collections, notably the V&A, the Designmuseum Denmark, the Holstebro Kunstmuseum, CLAY – Museum of International Ceramic Art, the Vejen Art Museum, the Trapholt Art Museum, the Danish Art Foundation and the Copenhagen Cultural Foundation. Bente Skjøttgaard has additionally received many awards for her work.
Galerie Maria Lund
48 rue de Turenne
Installation views by Marc-Antoine Bulot.