The International Competition at Aveiro Museum
The 16th International Biennale of Artistic Ceramics, supported by Aveiro City Council and backed by a highly committed (and very female) team, opened its doors on October 28, 2023. With 565 entries received, the event is shaping up to be a great success. It’s a record for this fast-evolving Biennale, marked by an ever-stronger determination to open up to the international scene and to be ever more demanding in terms of quality, and which in return has managed to prove itself attractive with its three prize packages worth €13,000 / €8,000 and €4,000 respectively.
A jury of five people chosen by the Biennale organizers was set up:
• Alda Tomas, Creative Director and Product Designer, Vista Alegre, Portugal.
• Erika Sütő, artist designer, International Ceramic Studio of Kecskemét, Hungary.
• Xavier Morant Vardejo, City of Manises and from the Ceramic Cities Grouping AEuCC and AeCC, Spain.
• Rui Silva, Associate Professor, Department of Ceramic Materials and Techniques, University of Aveiro, Portugal
• Stéphanie Le Follic-Hadida, art historian and Vice President of the International Academy of Ceramics, France.
The jury met twice to select the 84 finalists and then to award the prizes and mentions of Honor. Given its history and geographical location, I fully appreciated the decisive role that Portugal could play in the coming decades. This 16th Biennale has received entries from every continent, from Latin America, of course, but also from Africa and Oceania. This is an invaluable natural attraction that few countries can boast of.
The organizing team from the City of Aveiro’s Museums and Heritage Department brought together a wide range of profiles within the jury. Artists, teachers, association leaders, managers, art historians, and others represented the full spectrum of ceramic art and design activities. Some paid particular attention to style and craftsmanship, while others focused on ideas and inventiveness. It has to be said, however, that quality work always manages, as if by magic, to synthesize all these expectations. I think I can speak for everyone when I say how high the overall standard of this latest edition of the Aveiro Biennale was. It wasn’t easy to choose three winners. After many pointless stratagems and a great deal of passionate, well-argued discussion, we were able to reach a consensus without difficulty so that we could all converge on what we sincerely and objectively believe to be indisputable.
This is how the three splendid 2023 prizes were chosen:
• 1st prize: PAULA BASTIAANSEN (Netherlands), “Balanced in red” (3 elements), 90 x 90 x 23 cm, whose lightness and sense of movement essentially contradict the ceramic idea.
• 2nd prize: HIDEMI TOKUTAKE (Japan), “Grow”, 55 x 53 x 63 cm, whose timeless sculptural approach combines the complexity of its interior volume with the sensitive application of colour.
• 3rd prize: MING-MIAO Ko (Taiwan), “Handle with care“ (installation), porcelain, 350 x 40 cm, which tackles the issue of gender from the angle of sex toys and surgery.
Six mentions of Honor were then awarded to :
• CHISATO YASUI (Japan) for “Profiles 6 and 10”, two volumes of a constructivist nature, but combining structure and pictorial subtlety.
• JIAO MENG (China) for his floor installation “We are all Alice, ” drawing inspiration from oral tradition and ‘para-realism’.
• LISA BARBOSA (Portugal), only 25 years old, for her floor installation “Que nasçam flores”, which bears witness to the fires that hit Portugal hard last summer.
• MARIA ORIZA (Spain), for her refined and innovative porcelain wall sculpture, “Hipatia”.
• RICUS SEBES (Germany), for his highly virtuoso work in enameled crystallisations, “Amphora” and “The other side of light.”
• SHAO LEI (China), for his aerial and sensitive structure, “Slow-moving Shadow”.
However, the overriding feeling after the winners were announced was one of regret at not being able to honour other works, other equally remarkable approaches. On a podium, the step that separates the whole from the nothing often seems frighteningly unfair. And yet, we all left Aveiro with our minds nourished by the many artistic discoveries we had made and impatient to set up new exhibition projects to promote them. The artists presented at Aveiro touch on a wide range of artistic issues in contemporary ceramics: structural issues around volume, surface, glazes, pictoriality, hollowing out… and societal issues around ecology or gender. This 16th Aveiro Ceramics Biennale perfectly reflects the diversity of stylistic approaches and thematic obsessions in contemporary ceramics, which are also, in many ways, those of contemporary art.
Text by the Jury’s President, Stéphanie Le Follic-Hadida, Vice-President of the International Academy of Ceramics (extract from the biennale’s catalog)
Cecília de Sousa: The Poetics of Erosion at the Former Captaincy Gallery
Cecília de Sousa stands out as one of the most important names among the artists who dedicated themselves to ceramic production in the second half of the 20th century. Her work is endowed with a poetic expression of line and color, gaining a bigger identity and accentuating the progressively material contrast of her objects. Few artists worked ceramics to the extent that Cecília de Sousa did. She introduced time, erosion, the memory of creations and archaic civilizations into her creations, building pieces that seem almost archaeological, testimonies of forgotten ages and ignored cultures. Such is the work of Cecília de Sousa, a ceramist who, starting from the logic and aesthetics of her time, discovered, in her journey, the path of timelessness and who now makes herself known in the Gallery of the Old Captaincy of Aveiro, part of the XVI International Biennial of Ceramics of Aveiro.
Ellen Van Der Woude: Fragile Paradise at the Art Nouveau Museum
“Fragile Paradise” explores the unique beauty of nature, the rich variety of textures and forms, its rhythm and composition, and its vulnerability. It also refers to the world’s fragile relationship with nature and our interdependence and dependence on biodiversity. It’s a frightening prospect that humanity may potentially destroy all of nature’s wonders. The artworks are a reflection of the artist’s close observation and connection to the natural world, its resilience, and fragility while also acknowledging lost links between humanity and nature. Connecting with nature is vital for people’s psychological and physical well-being and is key to fostering greater understanding and respect for the natural world. May you be inspired by visiting this exhibition to slow down, reconnect with nature, and contribute to its conservation.
Juana Fernández: Paisajes Entertejidos at the Former Train Station
“The work process is intuitive; I develop series where I experiment with materials and shapes with different approaches that generate diversity of work. I start with a simple element in which the repetition of the gesture and the fingerprint of the fingers are visible and remain as a record of the process. From these elements, grouping them, I build the pieces. The slow and paused time it requires is also incorporated, is contained in its conformation, and becomes clear in its structure.
I explore the properties of clay, stoneware or porcelain. Ephemeral architectures, small habitats, shelters, nests, and shells are pieces built with thin blades of a mixture of porcelain and paper that present a fragile and delicate aspect. “Paisajes de Humo” is a work in which I experiment with the firing process, in which fire and chance decide the traces of smoke that are printed on the surfaces. Oxides and pigments add color, an element present in much of my work due to its power and ability to provoke and communicate sensations.”
Baltic Current at the City Museum
Exhibition curators: Valentins Petjko [LV], Aivars Baranovskis [LV], Agné Šemberaite [LT], Pille Kaleviste [EE]
Galvanized by the Latvia Ceramics Biennale, the creative current from the Baltic States has reached our partners in Portugal as an exhibition exchange project between the Latvia Ceramics Biennale and the International Biennial of Artistic Ceramics of Aveiro. As a significant event in the Latvia Ceramics Biennale programme, running this year with the title “Troubled Waters”, “The Baltic Current” features professional artists from the three Baltic States selected by a team of curators aiming to present the current situation in Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian ceramic art.
The leading actors in the Baltic Ceramics field (the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Ceramics, the Estonian Ceramics Association and the Lithuanian Artists’ Association) actively promote contemporary ceramics in the region and have had intense previous cooperation in joint exhibitions and other projects. Each country’s shortlist includes several generations, featuring respected veterans who have pioneered new trends and developments and made a lasting impact on the discipline alongside up-and-coming artists just emerging on the scene. Most of the exhibition participants, however, represent the middle generation who completed their ceramic studies after the break-free from the Soviet regime. The artists promise the viewer a rich and engaging exhibition experience, with a tantalizing glimpse into the Baltic mentality and ceramic art currents of the day.
Excerpt from the biennale’s catalog. The Baltic Current exhibition is on view until December 31, 2023
Laure Delamotte-Legrand: Stone Sea at the City Museum
“All starts with the encounter with a site, a valley in Normandy, with its cliffs and rocks sculpted by the sea and a beach at their feet. Wonder for what nature is able to create and which is disappearing. So why not keep the memory of it with the molding of this beach as a «vanishing point» and keep its imprint? The beach changes with each tide, and the material moves and shifts, a utopian undertaking to confront this invisible migration of the elements, these unstable landscapes, fascinating as well as disturbing.
To this history of the mineral matter migration was coupled the one of humans and the one of ceramics history – the influences between civilizations and the crossing of cultures. This project, which has been developing for ten years, pushes me to travel. I first went north along the coast for a residency at the famous Royal Delft factory in the Netherlands. The coastline to the south took me to the imposing Vista Alegre factory near Aveiro in Portugal.
Whatever the country or the place, my approach remains the same with the starting postulate of the curiosity of the encounter. The encounter with people and with places, with their history, their cultures, their gestures.”
IAC Portuguese Artists – Collective exhibition at Morgados Da Pedricosa Gallery
Many Portuguese artists/ceramists members and a unique exhibition that presents the individual selection of each author, highlighting their creative identity and their signature in a challenging and demanding space in its double dimension: International Biennale of Artistic Ceramics of Aveiro and Morgados da Pedricosa Gallery.
Participating artists: Ana+Betânia, Carlos Enxuto, Heitor Figueiredo, João Carqueijeiro, Sofia Beça, Xana Monteiro, Yola Vale
Binomial University of Lisbon Faculty of Fine Arts Collective Exhibition at the Misericórdia Cloister
The center of the Cloister of Santa Casa da Misericórdia is open, in an immediate connection with the cosmos, as well as with interior introspection and reflection. Around these ideas arises the Binomial, which focuses on the ideas of interiority, exteriority, verticality or horizontality, as accesses to this complex understanding. The works reflect these concepts, express these dimensions from the formal point of view, establishing inevitable dialogues with the architectural space.
Participating artists: Ana Franco Neto, Andreia Gomes Pereirinha, Anja Hallek, Bárbara Fernandes, Bárbara Jasmins, Beatriz De Almeida Pisa, Catarina Farinha, Daphne Klagkou, David Arraia, Francisca Martins e Pablo Díaz, Inês Duarte Justo, Inês Teles, Irene de Vilder, Isabel Bentes dos Santos, Jéssica Pinto, Mafalda André, Maria Henrique, Marta Galvão Lucas, Noah Thor Alhalel, Paco Moreno, Paola Quiñonez, Pedro Dionísio, Vera de Serpa Soares
Curva Atelier: Poetry of the Form. The Journey of the Word at Atlas Aveiro
The International Biennale of Artistic Ceramics of Aveiro has been taking place since 1989. For the school community to actively participate in the Biennale, the project “Biennale goes to School. The Poetry of Form” unites the written word to the ceramics by the hand of the artists residing in Curva Atelier, letting the words also be shaped and expressed by the plasticity of the clay. Schools worked on the theme “The Journey of the Word”. The Word is a sound, and it is also a story, and it contains a whole world. When it first gains body, its support is ceramic. And everything changes… With a body of clay, the Word travels farther and transcends generations. Pottery began the path of the Word and all we want to say and communicate to the future. What about us? What do we want to say to the Future? Let’s use the Word. And let’s get the message through the hands of the pottery. The clay again transformed into a vehicle of Art, a thruster of ideas through generations.
Various other exhibitions, masterclasses, workshops, performances, and other events were scheduled during the biennale. The complete program is available on the biennale’s website.
Photos by Miguel Cordovil