Art or Craft?
In contrast to making stuff that picture something and not doing it very well, it might be safer to make abstract sculptures because they don't have the ambition to look like something else than itself. So my experience is that these roughly made but abstract clay sculptures from my first solo exhibition in Inger Molin, were easier to accept and understand by the viewers than my picturing works.
People not knowing anything about ceramics had no problem in understanding these as abstract sculptures made by a skillful and professional ceramics artist. Nevertheless I realised that these ones also possessed something that was provoking, but this time mostly to people within the ceramics and craft context - knowing about the craft process and ceramic building techniques.
And why is that? I believe it is because I used traditional ceramic techniques like pulled handles and slab building, but used them in an unconventional way.
Viewers outside the the craft field did not having any problems accepting these as professional pieces of art regardless wether they understood or liked them or not. Either because they could not tell if they were skilled in making or that they accepted the fact that the skill lies within the artistic expression.
But why can't many of the people in the craft context settle with that the skill may lie within the artistic expression? They might say that this is art and not craft. A definition people outside the field is less concerned with, whether if what they are looking at is art or craft. And for me that definition is not that important either. I consider myself as an artist making art, that is the artistic expression is mostly more important for me than traditional criteria's of what might be considered as craft, like function, skill, decor, beauty etc.
But I'm an artist who is working within a craft context. This is where I have my education, skills, network of contacts and knowledge about it's materials, history and tradition. And this tradition of course influences how I work. So these pieces may well function as sculptural pieces in an art exhibition but I think these pieces works even better when exhibited as craft in a craft context.
At the time of my exam works in Konstfack and my first solo exhibition in gallery Inger Molin, I liked to make a parallel to music which has always been of high importance for me. I listen a lot to music, when I walk, work and whenever I have the oppurtunity to do it, but I listen mostly to the actual music and less to the words. That may be an entrance into understanding and reading my early works. No text, but instead expressive shapes, surfaces and visual noise that makes the viewer feel something, or encouraging the viewer to make his/her own associations.
Now, looking at them in retrospect though, you can discern interests and subjects that were present in these works and has populized my works ever since. Like an interest in psyhology, human behaviours, body, sexuality, chaos, spirituality, element of chance etc.
These sculptures were made in the late 90s in a Konstfack dominated by minimalistic Scandiavian design, straight lines, perfection, white or transparent, no excesses of any kind. Less is better. So this kind of messing with the clay was my protest against current ideas of what might be considered as being beautiful and/or skillful made.
I was in the same class as the Konstfack ceramics and glass professor Zandra Ahl and I believe she also wanted to set up a resistance, but her way was to turn against kitsch, popular culture and writing the small booklet 'Fult och snyggt'. Together with our class we were was in Las Vegas on a school trip on a NSECA-event in which we did not spend much time. The totally overwhelming, in the middle of the desert, fake city of backdrops, decadence and leisure was far more inspiring than the mossy modernist manly ceramic event we were supposed to attend.
Where do you want to go next?