Australian Influences in Denmark
(An Exhibition in Viborg -CLICK for pics)
Two Australian ceramists, originally from Denmark recently presented an Exhibition of ceramics in their home town of Viborg titled "Influences". Lone White, and Lene Kohl Jakobsen, combined their resources and talents to demonstrate, through their works, the capacity of geographical and cultural relocation to influence ceramic design and perception.
During visits to Denmark both artists had received remarks as to the obvious differences between their ceramics and those of contemporary Danish artists. This interest this generated led to an invitation to present an exhibition of their works at the Viborg Stiftmuseum in September/October 1998.
Following the invitation the artists eventually agreed to accept the invitation with the realisation that they would have the sole responsibility for getting the exhibition to Denmark.
The major objective for the ceramists was to demonstrate the degree to which their geographical relocation and immersion in a different artistic and cultural environment influenced stylistic change in their ceramics. Or, at least, examine the concept of how isolation and diverse geographical and physical features influence artistic development compared with a more formalised and focussed European system.
The "art vs. craft" debate remains alive and well in Denmark with an important (over?) emphasis on design. (The Danish word for design translates literally as "form-giving"). The following quotes - from the publication "Biennial 1997 an Exhibition of Contemporary Danish Crafts and Design" - attempt to establish some background to contemporary Danish views.
"Is craft still courting art? Is it the great dream of being able to create freely that is being weighed against utility and reproduction? This question , now a century old, seems to be alive and well,…"
"Implicit in this trend to liberate crafts…is a hidden rejection of the ancestral origins of crafts: handicrafts" Mirjam Gelfer-Jorgensen - Dr. of Philosophy from Danish Museum of Decorative Art
"Denmark has a rich tradition of craft and design. Talent abounds in the field. And the world of Danish and perhaps especially design, has seemingly never been more vibrant than it is today,…" Nina Hobolth, – Director, Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum
"Nordic order, Scandinavian Modern stood for simplicity and honesty…we only strive after necessity and sufficiency. Minimalisation is almost a professional goal."
"Good Danish crafts and design is almost naked, makes no use of effects, splendor or decoration…"
Torben Skov Danish artist
"That a thing was designed [thus] does not mean only that it is comfortable, that it can be used; it also means that it is a sign of its own use." Poul Erik Tøjner, Philosopher/art critic.
Within this framework Lone and Lene set about the onerous task of organising the exhibition of more than 100 ceramic pieces. Planning co-ordinating, fund raising, transport etc. consumed almost eighteen months. Funding support was obtained from a number of organisations and craft bodies without which the venture would not have been possible.
The artists arrived in Viborg in September and assisted in setting up the exhibition. The museum had arranged broad publicity and media coverage in national and regional newspapers along with TV and radio interviews. The relatively large exhibition opened with an over capacity attendance in excess of 200. Australian wines were served and the event was a resounding success with significant sales by both artists.
Lene’s work was generally received and accepted as conforming with preconceived Danish design concepts. Although geographically influenced, seaside inspired curves, small shell shapes and muted glazes, were recognised as retaining sufficient elements of the Danish perception of ceramics to enable the viewers to feel at ease and proved very popular.
On the other hand despite the exhortation in the catalogue "don’t think about its use – just sense it.", Lone’s ceramics elicited comments such as "interesting", "unusual", "different", "very colorful glazes and effects", "there is no Dane left in you anymore". This last comment epitomises the contextual viewpoint of the average Danish viewer.
As a follow-up to the exhibition, lecture/slide evenings were held at five Ceramic/Art Colleges throughout Denmark. The talks were accompanied with a comprehensive collection of slides provided by leading Australian ceramists focusinnng on their work methods and influences through national workshop activities. The talks emphasised the difficulties in teaching ceramics in a large nation like Australia compared with Denmark where virtually all training centers and institutions are accessible within a few hours. Issues of difficulties in communications, awareness, and regionalisation were also addressed in the context of the potential for vibrant and freer directions to emerge under less structured and rigid teaching systems.
There are no real conclusions that may be drawn from this exercise although one could possibly infer that Lene’s retention of elements of her Danish based ceramic training is identifiable in her works, especially by a Danish audience whereas Lone’s Australian/Asian experiences and background challenge the Danish viewer’s preconceptions. Conversely it may be the differing personalities of the artists or a myriad of other "influencing factors".
While questions such as Mirijan Gelfer Jorgensen’s "is craft still courting arts ?" remain unresolved and somewhat esoteric. However the experience of exposing the Danes to a taste of Australian ceramic culture and the welcoming and acceptance of the Danish arts patrons warmly rewarding for both artists.
Melbourne based Lene Kuhl Jakobsen, has lived in Australia for 13 years having obtained a degree in ceramics in Denmark (Kolding). Her work is mostly functional wheelthrown using white stoneware clay with semi-matt to gloss glazes. The colors and shapes reflect influences of the Victorian coastal beaches while retaining a "clean" style which is often associated with Scandinavian design concepts.
Lone White left Denmark 34 years ago and has lived in Cairns for the past 23 years attending numerous Cairns TAFE courses and workshops by visiting ceramic artists. Lone’s work predominantly focuses on large semi functional forms in stoneware clay combining hand building and wheelthrown techniques. Variations of experimental and standard glazes are used alone or combined. Inspirational influences are from both the tropical environment as well as shapes and impressions gained from extensive travel in South East Asia and China. (Refer CV)
Special thanks to the Craft Australia, The Arts Office Queensland, The Ambassador of Denmark, Pat Corrigan Artist Grant managed by NAVA with financial assistance from the Australia Council and the Danish Australian Cultural Society.
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Copyright © Lone White - Last updated August 2005