At the intersection of contemporary art and design, the exhibition opening at EMMA in May uses ceramic art to explore themes of disintegration and reconstruction

Ceramics Facing the New highlights the significance of clay for humanity while exploring contemporary environmental concerns and disintegration of social structures. Ceramics has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the trend has also found its way to contemporary art. Ceramics Facing the New presents twelve artists and two artist groups specialising in ceramic art, all of whom use materials and techniques in innovative ways and have an eye for topical themes. The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Ornamo Art and Design Finland and is based on an open portfolio call. Ceramics Facing the New is on view at EMMA from 3 May 2021– 28 August 2022.

Our new exhibition, Ceramics Facing the New, will open for the public on Monday, 3 May 2021 – the same date that EMMA opens its doors after being closed for almost six months. Press views will still be held virtually, however. You are welcome to join us for the press view of Ceramics Facing the New on Wednesday, 12 May, from 10–11. The exhibition will be presented by its curator Laura Kokkonen. Join the press view here. The press release is for immediate release. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

The underlying thematic concept in the exhibition is kintsugi, the Japanese tradition of mending broken pottery with gold or some other metal. Instead of concealing the damage, the act of kintsugi establishes a new relationship with it. A fracture can be a signal of something new. “The featured artists share a love for clay but also a need to reinvent ceramic art,” says the exhibition’s curator, Laura Kokkonen of EMMA. The reassessment of traditional methods has led to a search for and adoption of more ecological techniques and the extension of ceramics into spatiality. Themes addressed in the works include ecological disasters and mass extinction, conflicts and their consequences, and transitoriness and loneliness, as well as the vitality of the natural world and connectedness and presence.

British artist Katie Spragg exhibits three animations that remind us of the wonder and joy of observing nature. In the stop-motion works, clay grasses thrive in a field or sprout up from tiny cracks in concrete. Drawing a parallel between clay and plants, Spragg’s moving image works highlight the living power of matter. Meri Oivo’s large installation Fragile references natural forms – fungal rhizomes, branch systems and corals. The work consists of numerous fragile pieces of porcelain that Oivo has made with a technique she developed: involving both casting and handcrafting, the method allows distortions and fractures to be revealed in the final work.

Working with Soil is a group of ceramic artists working within multiple disciplines in design, arts and sciences who share an interest in humanity’s relationship with soil. The team collects soil samples, analyses them to determine the presence of pollutants, and uses the materials in artworks. Their artistic research of soils in Espoo is an exploration of natural phenomena and the changes in soil composition resulting from human action. Critically Endangered Species is an installation of painted ceramic pots that examine the effects of soil contamination on the decline of insect populations. Changes in land surfaces is the focus in Matteo Pennacchio’s series of ceramic reliefs entitled Marks. The works are based on satellite images showing the environmental impact of human activity, such as fellings, industry or armed conflicts.

Nathalie Lautenbacher’s Recovery was created on-site at EMMA. Its theme is the inevitability of disintegration and the cycles of matter in nature. Using unfired clay dishes from her own design brand, Lautenbacher has laid the table for a festive dinner, filled the vessels with water and allowed the liquid to dissolve the objects. Presence and the tangibility of material are the starting points of the concept created by Priska Falin and Helen Felcey. An installation at EMMA entitled Being With features ceramic stones made by students of the Karakallio school in Espoo. The concept includes workshops and an online portfolio, Dwelling, which features exercises designed to enhance conscious presence and to explore sensory experiences and ways of interacting with materials.

The Ceramics Facing the New artists are Priska Falin & Helen FelceyVeera KuljuNathalie LautenbacherPiia LiesteMatias KarsikasTiia MatikainenMeri OivoMatteo PennacchioMaria PunkkinenOuti SavolainenCaroline SlotteKatie SpraggIrma Weckman and the Working with Soil collective (Özgü GündeşlioğluCatharina Kajander, Riikka Latva-Somppi and Maarit Mäkelä). The exhibition is on show at the Bryk & Wirkkala Visible Storage space, which showcases the life’s work of Rut Bryk and Tapio Wirkkala. The 2021 theme at EMMA is the power of art. The craft of ceramics is both ancient, topical and rapidly evolving technique and a prime example of the enduring power and adaptability of art.

The extensive mobile guide to the exhibition features background information and interview videos.

Press images