Piet Stockmans (°1940, Leopoldsburg, Belgium) is probably the most famous ceramist in Belgium, but has always been international in outlook. After his training in ceramics (1963, PHIKO Hasselt) he learned the secrets of porcelain in Selb, Germany and in Limoges, France, before becoming the house designer with the Dutch porcelain factory Royal Mosa, where he designed the world's most ubiquitous coffee cup, 'Sonja'. In 1998 he received the prestigious Henri van de Velde prize for outstanding career achievement. Works of his are in the collections of the Gent Design Museum, the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum and the New York Metropolitan Museum.
Piet Stockmans is a very prolific artist. Apart from artworks, he also creates industrial design and studio porcelain. A lot of his works have, in the course of the years become exercises in restraint. Ceramics is in itself already an art of limitations, imposed by the onerous and lengthy technical processes involved. But Stockmans has chosen to take this a step further and to make his boundaries even narrower and more restrictive than the average ceramist, in the choice of material and colour. He works mainly with only two elements, porcelain slip and blue cobalt dip (The colour blue is so recurrent in Stockmans' work that it has earned the name "Stockmans blue").
By doing so, he proves that there are no limits inherent to the materials and processes if the creative and imaginative mind are given free vent.
Stockmans has consequently worked with porcelain throughout his career. He started experimenting with it since 1967 and explored its limits and possibilities. Regarding his use of porcelain, Stockmans says: "My first battle lay in overcoming and discarding the traditional concept of porcelain. It was heavily laden with clichés. I sought to clarify the mysticism of the material."
Not only in the choice of material or colour is there something repetitive in Stockmans' art, this is also obvious from his designs and installations. Stockmans: "Repeating the same things is soothing for me. I think it can be compared to the way people used to pray a rosary. It opens up a different kind of consciousness, which, in turn, leads to new ideas. Of course, you always arrive at a moment at which you find that you have performed the ritual so often that it no longer creates any new tension. Then I have to move on again, and that's the start of a new process. That too, again, has to do with repetition and ritual."
For his exhibition at Puls Contemporary Ceramics, Stockmans will be showing two new series. On the one hand, he will be showing huge vases, ranging from man's height to about 1 metre. The vases have very subtle decorations, if any at all. On the other hand, he will exhibit cast pieces ranging from 1 metre 20 and down. These pieces with blue rim are animated by the contact between the object and its producer. The tender egg-shell vases are deformed by the pressure of his hands while he was taking the still wet vases out of the plaster mould. Stockmans will also be showing two wall installations.
These new works are again striking in their simplicity, austerity and transparency. Stockmans keeps refusing dead weight, which would turn the attention away from what is essential. It is purity, in shape and in colour, which shows authenticity and therefore makes an impact. In a certain way, Piet Stockmans is writing the poetry of porcelain.