Conjecture of space

(Capable of being shaped or moulded on application of external forces)

Folding ceramic by Marga Knaven.

Article by Gertjan van der Stelt

IF YOU DON'T LOOK CAREFULLY YOU WON'T SEE WHAT IT is about. In short, this is what you can say about the work of Marga Knaven. You have to be very attentive to capture the meaning of her work. Since it is about the space, you can't see it. Having said that, the monochrome pieces also have a structure which, at a close look, gives away an entire history of the treatment the slab underwent in the process of making the object. Sometimes the piece resembles leather due to the way the slab was waved before folding. Other, seemingly monochrome objects in cooperate concentrations of pigments, produced during the drying-process. This creates a vivid structure and provides the viewer a whole world of possible associations.

Sculpture 2008 46 cm

Sculpture 2008. 46cm

Knaven uses ceramic materials to create her objects. Using pieces of coloured porcelain she creates the illusion of space in an entirely different way from other sculptors. Her intention is to let the work create itself.

She wants her work to be pure and simple, by diminishing the technical aspect to a minimum. In contrast to constructing a sculpture whereby the process is defined mainly by the technique, she allows the material to speak for itself. She started out by creating objects composed of layers, for example structures based on human organs with an inner and outer form, the female body and cellular structures. This required careful consideration of how she would construct the objects and ultimately Knaven found herself too preoccupied with the process of constructing'. Not only were the structures physically composed of different layers, the work also had different layers in a metaphorical sense. The organs were both containing and contained; containing the space and contained by the body, The monocellulars were enlargements of organic forms. Knaven found this too much; too much meaning, too much control. For her it was essential to bring it back to what it was all about in the first place: inside and outside. Knaven considered the use of decorative patterns as a distraction from the essentials of her intention: to let the material capture space as much as possible by itself. The first implication was minimizing embellishment. At first she made sculptures with different coloured sides, later she used monochrome slabs.

Sculpture 2009, 38cm

Sculpture 2009. 38cm

By folding the slabs of clay, outside becomes inside and vice versa. In the pink piece this shows very clearly, the outside becomes the inside by the way the slab is folded. The green object is a good example of creating the illusion of space, space you presume there is, but you cant see. Ultimately the sculptures were formed by minimalistic folding processes, resulting not only in the illusion of space but also in the somewhat mysterious illusion of layers. Her work brings to mind the phrase, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', whereby the viewer can extract an endless amount of depth from a seemingly finite piece of work.

Sculpture 2008, 42cm

Sculpture 2008. 42cm

The way Knaven manipulates the slabs of clay can be divided into: draping and folding. The folding seems to be more controlled than the draping and this is reflected in the results. The pieces which have been draped appear haphazard and random, which contrasts with the deliberate geometrical form of the folded pieces.

By letting go of the control over the material Knaven lets go of the idea that the work has to refer to certain meanings. What you see is what you get. The subsequent associations are not intended by Knaven, rather they are left to the imagination of the onlooker. "The way you deal with your work is defined by who you are as a person" Knaven says. This doesn't mean that her work is about who she is, but instead about how she works and how she relates to the material with which she works. "When talking about technique you're talking about the artist, the way he works, the temperatures he uses to fire the work, the stains he uses to colour his work, you're not talking about the meaning of the work and the place it appropriates." The coming to being of a form is the repercussion/result of a specific moment of concentration. This also implies a certain amount of control and preparation. Before creating a piece, Knaven tries different ways of folding a piece of paper or a cloth, before applying that to a slab of porcelain. She can only fold it once, she can't unfold it like you can unfold a cloth or a newspaper. Unfolding a piece of porcelain will leave it permanently damaged rendering it useless.

Sculpture 2008, 50cm

Sculpture 2008. 50cm

The ultimate character of the pieces is very much decided by the colouring. Sometimes the colour is very modest and related to nature, like in the black piece. Together with the skin-like structure and the thickness of the slab, the onlooker can be left with, for example, an association with leather. Sometimes Knaven combines the porcelain objects with a wooden support. The plasticity of the material is then accentuated by the softness of the unprocessed, natural wood and the way the objects often appear to hang over the supports. In stark contrast to the black piece, the pink piece has more associations with chewing gum and plastic or rubber. Due to the plasticity of the materials used and also their smooth surfaces, the onlooker can often be left with the illusion that the pieces can just as easily be unfolded. In actual fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Through specific processing techniques the once plastic materials have been transformed into permanent works of art.

Sculpture (Detail)

Sculpture (Detail)


Sculpture 2009. 45cm

Sculpture 2009. 45cm

Marga Knaven is one of the participants at the 5th biennial world ceramic exhibition in Korea (CeBiKo) This event is taking place from 24 April until 21 June 2009. The work in this article was created in the European Ceramic Work Centre in the Netherlands. (www.margaknaven.nl)

All photos by Marja van Hassel. Gertjan van der Stelt is a ceramist in the Netherlands. COPYRIGHT 2009 Ceramic Art No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder. Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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