In the Centre is Man

How many times is it possible to surprise? For Tulla Elieson her exhibition in Kunstnerforbundet feels like venturing into deep waters.

The sport`s reporter would have cheered swimming worthy of an Olympic gold medal. Tulla Elieson (52) has impressed us before. From her base in Gamlebyen in Fredrikstad she sends out huge ceramic dishes which have earned her a world class position. So when the catalogue for this exhibition arrived by the post, I thought I was impressed. But hardly ever have I been as speechless as I was when I found myself in front of  Tulla Elieson`s latest work. This is so good that words can hardly express it. In due respect I will nevertheless make an attempt. The size is one thing: Seven porcelain dishes with diametres mounting to 140 centimetres are placed on the walls and on the floor. The arrangement is very successful due to the fact that it immediately establishes a span of themes and materials for the exhibition. The artistic quality is outstanding. Here is something for everybody.

First of all there is the craftmanship, which is astonishingly varied and accurate. The light is reflacted in a sparkling way by the glazes, the surfaces are displayed in depth and in width. Even an unwanted crack – in “Human Touch” – is converted into artistic strenght when it is filled with transparent acrylic. The perfect craftsman`s fingerprint is literally visible.

Even though porcelain was an unknown material for Tulla Elieson when the ceramist started her work at the Norsk Teknisk Porselensfabrikk ( Norwegian Technical Porcelain Factory ) in Fredrikstad, sha has fully exploited the possibilities of the material in a very successful way. The objects are cast and the motives are applied with various techniques. Within the limitations set by the factory`s repertoire, she has achieved an impressive variety.

With bodily references as the fingerprint, an ear and a head in three different stages of disappearance, she puts man in the centre. In “Human Crown” the artist`s optimistic view on the future finds it expression through the vision of parachutists in formation. The same fascination for man`s victory over the elements finds it`s powerful expression in the only work of the exhibition in black-burnt stoneware: “ A Woman for Stephen Hawking.” Its dominating feature is the imprint of the artist`s body in the middle of a rifled circular landscape. It is very beautiful, very symbolic and ambiguous.

She reaches her very peak in the works “Lifespan” and “Crouching Daughter”. The first one spreads out the poetical text “this is how far I have come till now”. The letters reaches as far as the artist`s career until the present day, and they are ingrained in the surface with their own shadow figures as a resonator.

In the last work the silhouette of a woman crouching in foetal position is indicated. Around her a spiral is slung like a protective web. Or like a threatening organism. The ambiguity is the very strenght of these works – with man in the centre.

Lars Elton


( Lars Elton is the art critic of Norways largest newspaper – Verdens Gang.)