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The Art of Limitation

June 8, 2018

Very few Danish ceramic artists have mastered pottery like Gutte Eriksen (1918- 2008); this year marks the centenary of a unique artist.

Eriksen graduated from The School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen in 1939. She worked in the studio of other potters until she in 1953 founded her own studio in Hundested in the northern part of the Danish island Zealand. Gutte Eriksen began her lifelong  ceramic journey inspired by the historic Danish pottery tradition. It’s forms and ornamentation; it’s simplicity and usefulness. In 1950 Eriksen travelled to England. Here she was introduced to the Japanese pottery tradition and it’s complex firing process. She met the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada and this encounter marks a change in her artistic work.

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In her studio she meticulously worked on perfecting the combination of a very limited repertoire of traditional shapes with an ever-experimental glaze and firing process. The pieces’ virtually only visual decoration was made from the complexity of the Borax glaze. Her works consist of an un-pretentious elegance. They are characterized by a rational and functionalistic approach to form and shape combined with a very elegant and visually strong idiom. She was formed by the Danish modernism and it’s emphasized social approach and stayed close to this throughout her career.

Like Japanese pottery Eriksen’s pieces work in solitude as well as in groups. Her oeuvre of sublime aesthetic earthenware pieces for everyday use remains an inspiration today.

Throughout her life she trained younger artists and inspired generations of potters with her enthusiasm, knowledge and hard work. She struggled for a potter to be appreciated as an artist. She would have been pleased to see the ceramic work being made at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of visual Arts today where an (late) acknowledgement arises.

Eriksen’s work is represented at museums in Denmark and international. She won several prizes and did monumental works as well.

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The images are from the exhibition at CLAY, Middelfart.