At the Europees Keramisch Werkcentrum (EKWC), known since 2011 as Sundaymorning@ekwc, renowned artists and promising new talents have the opportunity to experiment with clay to their heart’s desire. In honour of the institute’s fiftieth anniversary this year, Kunstmuseum Den Haag is showing installations by seven Dutch artists whose time at the centre had a major impact on their work.
The installation Bullshit Defines Architecture by Dick Verdult (b. 1954) was created during his time at the EKWC. ‘I got together a pile of crap like cardboard, wood, blankets and tape and covered it with clay. As soon as it was dry I removed the underlying elements (the ‘bullshit’). This is literally how Bullshit Defines Architecture was created. But it also of course says something about our society. The slightly warlike character of the piece reminds me of photographs of Grozny, where everything was shot to pieces.’ The installation includes a radio-controlled tank and a trail of sound featuring a dictatorial rant about ‘New Realistic Ceramics’. Verdult says of his residency, ‘Thanks to the expertise of the people at EKWC I didn’t have to face major disappointments like “Oh no, now it’s cracked!”. The whole ritual of the painful wait to see how the piece comes out of the kiln was always an enjoyable experience. Not only for me, but for the majority of the participants. I had a great time playing and discovering for two months.’
The ceramic sculptures that Gijs Assmann (b. 1966) will be showing have the structure of still lifes consisting of stacks of recognisable objects. ‘Like in 17th-century vanitas paintings, the objects can be seen as symbols. The presentation is an ode to a sensual life, physical thought and vital engagement with the big questions in life. A longing for constancy in doubt.’ He says of his time at the EKWC, ‘Ceramics is the basis of my work. The tension between the directness of the clay and the technical skill that working with clay requires allowed me to merge the thinking and making processes. I spent three months working in complete concentration and quiet, testing ideas and possibilities in my work.’
Maartje Korstanje (b. 1982) thought it would be interesting to translate her normal practice – largely involving working with card – into clay, so that the different techniques and materials could interact. ‘I used to make smaller things of clay, but I had never worked with this material on a large scale. I was interested to see how gravity impacts on hanging matter and how the material would deform as lots of weight was added. I started with the way butchers used to hang meat in the window. The willingness of clay was a welcome change after working with card. When you shape something with your hands the imprint remains visible, but card often shifts back the other way. After working with ceramics I started treating card more like a material you can model, by kneading it more for example. The sculptures I will be showing at the exhibition in The Hague are the “hard core” of around 20 I made during my period working at the EKWC. They hang or lie on wooden structures.’