Introduction from the book Gitte Jungersen, Ceramic Works. Published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers 2018.
Lars Dybdahl is former Head of Research at Designmuseum Danmark.
In the circle of outstanding ceramicists who have earned Danish contemporary ceramics its global recognition, Gitte Jungersen operates continuously and with great intensity at the autonomous end of the spectrum. The pole where the craft plainly disregards its latent potential as a source of innovation for new industrial products intended for our aestheticized everyday life to unfold instead in a sculptural exploration of material aesthetics and dissolving boundaries – in objects that qualify as works of art.
In the ceramic diversity at play in this artistically potentiated field, ‘eternal’ vessel types are rejected or transformed, and the ceramic material is generally liberated from rationality and regularity of form. This leaves the objects free to examine its own creation and character and to take on associative, narrative and conceptual roles, thus pointing to the larger world, challenging conventional thinking and enhancing vitality. The sculptural expression may also be applied to larger installations, where several components form a complex and extended work of art on wall surfaces or in three-dimensional space.
In her far-reaching, high-profile oeuvre Gitte Jungersen has covered the full spectrum from the expressive to the conceptual. In mobilizing her ceramic material she has not only opened the floodgates to the ancient textural qualities of clay and glaze; she has also orchestrated contrast-rich meetings, where ceramic engages in physical and meaning-generating interplay with other materials, for example from the pop-culture super-hero universe, with a plastic Spiderman figure being transferred to the large scale of a ceramic installation that includes other object types. Or in her series Place to Be Lost, where corny and kitschy elements, in the form of small trivial animal figurines in high-gloss porcelain, are assigned a surprising role to play in her characteristic landscape formations of lava-like, eruptive glaze. Never a ‘Danish-Japanese’ minimalist, she engages in analytical processes where her reflections and experiments focus primarily on the expressive colour and form potentials of glazes.
In Gitte Jungersen’s production, the engagement with liquid glazes – one of the characteristic elements of new Danish ceramics – is taken to extremes. While ceramic glazes are normally used to decorate the ceramic body, in her works they assume a startling, independent identity. In the vertical sculptures in her series of ‘Little Hybrids’ the organic glaze substances form a colourful ‘plastic explosive’ on the upright rectangular frames. And in her large glaze objects from recent years, the glaze has taken over completely. While ceramic glazes traditionally serve as decoration, here, the multi-layered objects attain a state of autonomy as substantial forms in their own right, without a clay body.
Just as bubbles are a rich, often clustered, recurring motif in her work, the large objects made of combined glazes capture a single moment in time, as sudden cooling has ‘frozen’ the hot, liquid glaze in its boiling, seething stage. The possible resemblance of the glazes to minerals returning to their original state in the earth’s crust does not mean that Gitte Jungersen seeks or strives for any ‘deep’ essence of the ceramic means of production. In a time defined by radically renewing technological development processes and smart, intelligent material design, her intense fascination with the hybrid and mutating is, by contrast, associated with the current absence of fixed material identities. In harmony with the postmodernist breakthrough in ceramics Gitte Jungersen also abandoned the static, emotive and nature-simulating tradition in Danish ceramics and struck out on her own path with expressive and transformative abstractions on the cubic vessel. A form that is in itself far removed from common everyday types and thus appears strictly as a rhetorical reference to utilitarian forms and functionality. One of her choices in this process was stark, artificial colour notes, a sign of the times, and, in her distinctive work, a reflection of an innovative temperament.