Dynamism frozen in the moment
Danish ceramist Michael Geertsen is yet another mover and shaker from the renowned Danish Design School. He trained as a traditional wheel-based potter and ceramic designer. Above all, however, he is a student of human history. “History plays an important role in my entire approach to art. Understanding the lessons of history is integral to my art.”
Historicism aside, this artist born in 1966 has been making his own history as one of the leading ceramic trendsetters of his generation. He is attracting collectors as varied as Lady Gaga and that bastion of all things historically artistic, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, after making numerous additions of his work to their vast ceramic collection in recent years, commissioned a permanent installation by Geertsen. “Almost the entire development of civilization over the past 6-8000 years is represented in clay in the V&A. I was hugely honored to receive this commission.”
Geertsen revels in taking established and long cherished forms as a point of departure and then moving them into our time. “I do this by exposing them to modernist elements, by twisting them through my system. My decorative device in this context is the attachment of classic geometric shapes, knobs and doodads—making these nice archetypal objects physically raise their hackles.” The slick industrial glaze also adds friction in comparison with the natural clay used in ceramics throughout history.
“The individual components are hand-thrown. I then combine the elements into a finished expression, relying on manual processes and my eye for proportions. While I start with a clear concept in mind, jazzy improvisation is always part of my method. I strive to create a sculptural accumulation of familiar everyday ceramic elements: cup, plate, flowerpot, saucer, teapot—sampled in a deconstructivist approach that transcends our everyday life, pointing back into history as well forward at new stories. In my view, gold and silver are the essence of Western decadence and scream abundance and hedonism with an implicit touch of kitsch. These precious metals are cheeky elements of bad taste. That is why I continue to use them as narrative elements. In addition, the metallic reflections create unique spaces when seen up close.”
Geertsen’s sculptures are complex, interlocking forms imbued with a unique dynamism and sleek industrial surfaces and colors. They inevitably evoke continuous growth in tension between form and ornament. Often seemingly strident, they interact directly and emotionally with both the surrounding space and the viewer. These are unquestionably works with a quite distinct dynamic. For Geertsen, there are no rules or formal requirements, only assertions—and the historical imperative that anything goes.