Ann Beate Tempelhaug: Nord
Spazio Nobile Gallery presents, Nord, an exhibition of new work made between 2022-2023 by Norwegian ceramic artist Ann Beate Tempelhaug. The exhibition will feature a selection of large-scale ceramic sculptural ‘murals’ onto which she makes free-flowing abstract paintings inspired by the dramatic northern Norwegian landscapes and the mystery of life itself.
“By taking the landscape as inspiration, my work connects to my life and my memories,” states Ann Beate Tempelhaug. For over 40-years, the artist, who studied at the Bergen School of Art and Crafts as part of the early ‘painters-potters’ generation, has merged painting and ceramics in a very physical and powerful way. From the beginning she opposed the “traditional” teaching that there should be flower decorations on dishware or painting ceramic animal shapes. This innate sense of freedom led her to break the boundaries of what ceramics could be. She soon developed her own way of working on large slabs of clay that are hand formed through regular pounding and pushing. The clay is mixed with fibres and other natural elements to reinforce its strength and then mixed in a massive mixing pot. Once the slabs are ready, she begins the process of painting. Her inspiration is deeply rooted in the landscape, but it is also profoundly personal. “I was in Crete one summer, in Elafonissi where they have pink sand. I fell in love with this sand and tried to make pink in my work for years following”, she says.
While connections to Nordic landscape painters such as August Strindberg are clearly felt, for Tempelhaug this connection is only coincidental, perhaps through their shared love of how the light plays across the rugged Norwegian country. She was influenced more by the styles of Kokoschka and Munch, and artists working with clay.
Colour is a huge part of Tempelhaug’s process. “I like the process and act of mixing ceramic pigments with porcelain clay – While painting, I have to translate the colours, because they change in the firing. The surprise element once the firing is done is part of the experience and fun… then repainting and re-firing…” She applies layers and layers of painted porcelain slips and glaze, moving around her slabs in a very gestural and physical way. The works are fired at 1300˚ and often multiple times. In this way, Tempelhaug is also very concerned about materiality, exploring the limits of ceramic as a material, and challenging formats, weight, balance and what technical movements are possible and impossible.
In this newer body of work, including 15 pieces made specifically for the exhibition, Tempelhaug returns to the dramatic northern landscapes in Norway. There is a shift in colour, with more fiery orange and yellows. But the work featured in Nord is not exclusively about the landscapes, it is also very personal, about the struggles and experiences of ageing and mortality. Tempelhaug references a quote by Danish artist Per Kirkeby, “Landscapes are always about beauty and death”. This speaks to her new body of work in a very intimate way. “The landscape associations might seem obvious, but for me they work more like a guide for my desire to compose colours and abstract shapes. And to link them and help me define my memories. More like inner landscapes, or Genius Loci”, she explains.
In works such as Milonga or Prelude (Forspill), one feels the rhythmic and free-style approach to her painting, that has a vibrant connection to jazz and other syncopated music. The work can be ethereal and light and at other times frenetic and swirling. Each of the ceramic pieces is signed on the back with a portrait of Eirik Gjedrem, her ‘artist-husband’ as she refers to her husband and studio assistant, an ode to the magic of creating art and of life itself.
Nord opens on September 8, 2023 and will be on view at Spazio Nobile Gallery through November 19, 2023.