Meşher’s first ever exhibition “Beyond the Vessel: Contemporary Ceramics around Europe” opened its doors on September 2019 at the old building of Arter. The exhibition which was curated by Catherine Milner and Károly Aliotti, focused on the portrayal of legends, fairy tale characters and myths.
PROF. GÜNGÖR GÜNER
Residents of Istanbul found themselves exposed to - of course in a positive manner–ceramic art called “Beyond the Vessel” hosted by Meşher (located at the old building of Arter) in Beyoğlu.For some reason aforementioned title wastranslated into Turkish as “Going beyond Moulds” however, in my opinion it could have been translated as “Beyond Pots and Pans”. Because ceramic mould casting is side unit, this has led to incomprehensibility! Our deceased professor Hakkı İzzet used “pots and pans” phrase a lot. Since he was also the founder of the department, therewere two different classes regarding ceramic at those years; Pots and Pans Ceramic and Casual Ceramic. Because I love the Basic Art Education course, I tried so hard to change the name of the course as “Ceramic Basic Art Education” during my presidency at DTGSYO [State School of Applied Fine Arts]. Because, I was applying Ceramic Basic Art Education program that was adjusted for ceramic with freshman students. When the State School was appointed to Marmara University, everything was renamed. As a ceramist and instructor at Marmara University Faculty of Fine Arts, I left 60 years behind if we also include my own school years. Ceramic education institutions have increased in time and highly qualified ceramic artists have started to make their names heard from every corner of the country. By the way, while they were thinking they were makingceramic most of the time they were making it by “missing the ceramic” in my own words…
I was not invited to the exhibition opening. I visited it later on; I was very surprised when I walked in. Because I thought “does everything have to be so exaggerated and so stylish?” I went to see the exhibitiononce again after purchasing and reviewing the catalog of the exhibition. I allocated time to visit it for a while and was slightly embarrassed because of my previous judgement! This exhibitionwas far from missing the ceramic phenomenon and was decorated with the works of productive artists who were bold, competent, original and veryskillful. It was an exhibition worth seeing.
The exhibition included the works of the following artists:
Sam Bakenwell: Born in 1983, graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2015, lives in / London/England.
Bertozzi & Casoni duo: Born in 1957 and 1961.After their education at the Art Institute of Feanza, they live in Imola/Italy and work in their own workshops.
Vivian Van Blerk: Born in South Africa, lives in Paris, graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art affiliated to the University of Cape Town. After her graduation in 1996, she has been workingmainly in photography. She also continues her ceramic works which she started in Beirut in 2017.
Christie Brown: Born in England, graduated from Manchester University in 1969 and Harrov School of Art in 1982, she was made Honorary Professor by Westminster University.
Phoebe Cummings: Born in 1981 Walsall /England. Graduated from Royal College of Art and Yl in 2005. She makes temporary botanical sculptures from clay in her home workshop.
Klara Kristalova: Born in Czechoslovakia in 1967, graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts, Sweden.She lives in Norralje/Sweden and works in her own workshop.
Malene Hartman Rassmussen: Born in Denmark, graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design Bornholm and Royal College of Art London. She works from her own studio in London.
Elsa Sahal: Born in 1975, Paris /France. Graduated from Ecoledes Beaux Arts in 2000. She continues her works in her own workshop in Paris.
Kim Simsson: Born in 1974, Helsinki / Finland. Graduated from Aalto University Ceramic Department. The artist lives and works in the designer craftsmen village of Fiskars. He has one more workshop in Arabia Art Department, which is affiliated to Littala & Arabia Design Center in Helsinki.
Carolein Smit: Born in 1960,Amersfoort/ Netherlands. She lives in Belgium. She studied stone-print painting at the Dutch Breda Academy of Arts Sint Joost and specialized in pattern design. Her first contact with the ceramic phenomenon started in 1996 with her staying as a three-month guest artist at the European Ceramics Working Center in Hertogenbosh, the Netherlands. Nowadaysshe is making ceramics in her own workshop.
Jorgen Haugen Sorensen: Born in 1934 in Copenhagen/ Denmark. The artist who has been making sculptures with stones and different materials in public spaces since 1953 has opened many international exhibitions. It is included in the catalog information that he also has a sculpture in Ankara apart from his personal exhibitions in Istanbul Dolmabahçe Palace and Ankara Halkbank Art Gallery in 1991. Since 1990, he has been making expressionist sculptures with clay.
Bouke de Vries: Born in Utrecht/ Netherlands, studied at Eindhoven Design Academy and Central St. Martins and later in Ceramics Conservation and Restoration at West Dean College. Using his acquired skills in this process, he continues the conceptual placement of broken ceramic pieces and in very special cases ceramic restorations in his own workshop.
Hugo Wilson: British artist born in London in 1982, he works with a tradition unique to the versatile artists of the Italian Renaissance. He owes these qualities to several years of training he received with Charles H. Cecil in the traditional Florentine workshop and the strong bond he established with the old masters.
The exhibition catalog wasprepared in a highly qualified and comprehensive manner. Each artist was visited in his/her own workshop and asked to answer 21 identical questions; their answers werecollected for the questions. I also had the opportunity to get to know them in depth thanks to the catalog containing responses to the questions. Therefore,I was able to perceive and evaluate their works later on at the level they deserved. I would like to mention a few of these questions that I find most interesting: What is your favorite fairy tale? How are the myths connected to today’s world? Are you an artist or a ceramist? In the answer to the first question, it seems that all of the fourteen artists, except the oldest member, Jorgen Haugen Sorensen, had a great interest in the tales and myths of the north! These mentioned myths vary from The Brothers Grimm, The Tales of Andersen, to Zeus, who gathered the clouds and Medusa with snake hair. The works that are exhibited also prove that the main theme of the exhibition consists of fairy tales and myth characters. As a matter of fact, the exhibitors are mostly northwestern European artists. As for Danish Sorensen, he says that “He has no reason to use ancient myths, myths and tales, because according to himthe time we live in displays many events that deserve to be told, and he is unable to see myths as a source material that can be used to express today's reality.”
Same Bakewell from England said that he isn't bothered with the question “Are you a ceramist or an artist?” Phoebe Cummings described herself as an artist who uses the craft of ceramics, Bertozzi & Cazzoni from Italy as artists who use ceramics, Carolein Smit as the artist who uses the possibilities of ceramics, Elsa Sahal form France said that she was not interested in this detail and as she uses clay she should be a ceramist. The answer of Finnish Kim Simsson to this question is as follows: “At the beginning of my school years, it was understood that I had a natural talent for sculpture, but I wanted to study in the painting department. Only I couldn't pass the entrance exam. While I was studying in the ceramics department, I kept emphasizing that I was a sculptor. As my self-esteem increased, I started not to care how people described me. I do all of my ceramic works on my own, with the skills I have acquired by working hard. Therefore I have these skills and I am a craftsman”. The remaining eight ceramists stated that they are definitely artists…As I indicated above, all of the aforementioned artists have a workshop at home or within a short walking distance, and as far as I understand they do not pursue any other professional occupation other than ceramics. All artists are doing a full-day serious work, starting early in the morning with the discipline of a clerk or laborer. And, they are actually productive. We also comprehend by reading between the lines that this production is evaluated by both collectors and museums, which is naturally a lucky situation that has an incentive effect ontheir work.
I would like to express my appreciation and thanks for such an extraordinary ceramic exhibition opened with an excellent organization and exhibition catalog due to the special interest of Koç Group President Mr. Ömer Koç. For those who have not seen this exhibition yet, I suggest that they review the catalog in question if they happen to pass by Meşher on Istiklal Avenue. However, I should also mention that; I wish a ceramicist was consulted in the translation of ceramic terms in the exhibition catalog! For example, instead of “The wheel is one of the most important canon of ceramics” it should have been said “The wheel is one of the most important tool or element of ceramics” (the use of the term canon is incorrect, the proper term should have been tool or element). Again, the use of the expression “çekme” (in Turkish) in the catalog is mistaken. The ceramic does not “shrink” (çekme) but it reduces in size in a rate of two or three dimensions (“küçülme” in Turkish)! Terms such as “drying shrinkage”, “firing shrinkage” and “total shrinkage” are established terms in the literaturenearly for seventy years. Finally, I highly recommend comparing the dead rabbit sculpture in this exhibition with the amazing rabbit sculpture that a student of mine made in the second year of her studies years ago. I have included the sculpture photo here.