Nina Malterud: Material Statements is on view at KODE Bergen Art Museum, Bergen
May 20 – September 11, 2022
For nearly 50 years, Nina Malterud has been one of Norway’s foremost artists in her field. This May, KODE Art Museum presents Material Statements—a major retrospective exhibition of the artist featuring more than hundred works from every stage of her career.
Nina Malterud (b. 1951) was one of the key Norwegian figures in what has become known as the “new ceramics” in the 1970s. She played an active part in the reorientation which led to a reappraisal of ceramics and crafts and their acceptance as art forms. Today, her art moves effortlessly between the categories of crafts and fine arts.
Material Statements: Nina Malterud is curated by Jorunn Veiteberg. The exhibition is the latest in KODE’s programme of presentations profiling major artists with links to Western Norway. It covers works from 1975 to the present, with particular emphasis on the past twenty years. Several of the pieces have been made specially for the exhibition.
The exhibition’s title takes us straight to the heart of Malterud’s work. Throughout her career, she has been preoccupied with the expressive potential of clay.
In her early years, Malterud made mostly cups and pots, before gradually moving on to larger vessels and decorative objects. She drew inspiration in particular from the ceramics of the Minoan culture and the Nordic Iron Age, but she also gives a nod to Norwegian rosemaling (rose painting) in some of her floral motifs. After the turn of the millennium, Malterud continued with earthenware, but with a freer approach. Today, she prefers to work with surfaces in smaller formats that frequently allude to classic ceramic products such as tiles, tablets and dishes.
In her art, Malterud is receptive to visual effects that arise through a controlled approach to the unpredictable. Fired to a temperature of 1,060 degrees Celsius, powdered glaze turns to liquid glass. Glazes applied layer upon layer interact with each other in the course of multiple firings to produce images and patterns. Using this approach, objects can be reformulated countless times.
Cracks and gaps in the glaze can be fatal errors, yet they can also become features in a complex and mercurial idiom. Some of Malterud’s surfaces prompt associations to skin and vulnerability, others suggest the processes of nature or the weather. Most of her works, however, can be regarded as purely abstract art. In the artist’s own words: “I strive for an expression that has physical presence yet without narrative.”
Pioneer and shaper of policy
Nina Malterud studied at the National College of Art and Design in Oslo (1971–1974). She played an active role in the activist campaign Kunstneraksjon-74 (Artists’ Action-74). What was negotiated and achieved by the artists during these years of activity is still the financial basis for most contemporary art production in Norway today. Furthermore, she had a central role in establishing the Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts in 1975 and in the launch of the crafts magazine Kunsthåndverk in 1980.
Malterud was professor of ceramics at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts (KHiB) from 1994 to 2002, before serving as Rector at the same institution from 2002 to 2010. In collaboration with other national arts education institutions, she was deeply involved in establishing the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme in 2003.
Malterud has received several awards for her work in arts education and crafts, including the Honorary Award of the Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts in 2005 and the Ulrik Hendriksen’s Honorary Award in 2022.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication featuring texts by Anne Britt Ylvisåker, Glenn Adamson and Jorunn Veiteberg.
KODE Bergen Art Museum
Rasmus Meyers allé 9
Photos courtesy KODE Bergen Art Museum and the artist