QandA with the artists in Fire it Up: Ceramic as Material in Contemporary Sculpture

In conjunction with the exhibition Fire it Up: Ceramic as Material in Contemporary Sculpture, the participating artists were asked a few questions about this material and their approach to artistic production.

Fire It Up takes place at Dienstgebäude, Töpferstr. 24, Zurich, May 30-June 30, 2013.  Vernissage, May 30, 7-10pm

Pascal group

QandA with Pascal Häusermann

Olga Stefan(OS): Do you see yourself as a sculptor/artist or ceramicist/potter?  What do you think are the differences between these terms?

Pascal Häusermann (PH): I see myself as an artist. Sculpture is one of my main topics, which is not necessarily always addressed by the medium of sculpture. It can be also addressed by other mediums.

OS: How do you produce your objects?  What is the process you undertake?

PH: If possible I create them by myself. If I can’t handle the skills I do not hesitate to collaborate with craftsmen.  My ideal situation is to get into a close collaboration with a professional where the idea and technique mutually inspire each other.

OS: Why do you think that ceramic has had such a bad reputation in modern and contemporary art?

PH: In Europe ceramic and pottery became associated with the media of hobby artists. Particularly the pottery workshops in Tuscany, Italy represent the problem of that reputation. Unfortunately, a lot of contemporary artists who work in ceramic got stuck on making ironical comments out of this situation.

OS: How have you come to this material in your practice and what attracts you to it?  Why do you work with it?

PH: The first time I worked with it was due to my interest in its link to archaeology. I was producing assemblages of three-dimensional company logos (2006) to explore if representation of today’s capitalism could be transformed into a religious and historical iconography.

Now with the panoptical portraits I resumed working with the material because the process of creation, ie the spinning, goes together with the spatial idea of the object. The panoptical view is a view of 360 degrees which is the same process as the potter rotating a vessel.

OS: Do you feel that your use of the material is essential to understanding your work, or in your case it’s incidental, more of a practical solution?

PH: It is always essential. If I work with stone, the stone is as important as its form. I’ve never compromised in choosing a material.

OS: In general, do the technical demands of ceramic take away from the artist’s focus on a conceptual approach to the work?  Or do you see the technical and the conceptual expressed equally through the form?

PH: Working with a material like ceramic is elaborate in terms of skills and also in terms of time. In any case you need good self-management not to lose all your time in dealing with the technical elements. Regarding Switzerland being a country of expensive crafts labor it also mandates a good budget to let yourself have the time to do research for the concept. So basically I see technique and concept equally expressed through the form, but it is not easy to achieve in this case.

OS: Have you encountered challenges in exhibiting your ceramic work in the contemporary art context? If so, why do you think that is?  If not, what has contributed to this inclusion?

PH: Not working with ceramics in an ironical way demands certain explanations. Nobody has expressed it yet but the closeness to interiour design could also be criticised. The idea of beauty as matter of fact is inherent in my work especially when I work with ceramics. It’s neither the ambiguity to Kitsch showed  in the work of Jeff Koons nor it is the ironical treatment of amateur pottery of work by Sterling Ruby that I’m interested in. I would say that I use the aspect of a beautiful object in the media of ceramic to seduce the viewer.

But I do not let it lead into the popart approach of playing with high and low culture. Behind my interest is a constant research of power structure and representation.

Editing, proofreading and translation done by Olga Stefan Consulting

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