Ann Beate Tempelhaug: Scaling Upwards
TLmag talks to Norwegian ceramic artist Ann Beate Tempelhaug, whose large-scale ceramic objects aim to offer a meditation on time.
Taking things one day at a time, Norwegian ceramic artist Ann Beate Tempelhaug has been creating large scale ceramic objects for over thirty years — with some of her pieces in collections from institutions like National Museum Oslo. In a practice to which she has dedicated decades of her life to refine, the artist’s freely shaped and sculpted ceramic objects are painted completely by hand on both their surface and borders — a testament to her curiosity and dedication to finding the beauty in everyday colours and shapes. Through her methodology and works, which seem to have been created long before our time and will undoubtedly outlast us all, Ann proposes new ways of understanding how even the smallest transient moments can affect our larger context. Having recently exhibited with our sister gallery Spazio Nobile, TLmag caught up with Ann Beate to talk about the influences behind her work, the act of looking and her journey in further moving the boundaries of ceramic art.
TLmag: You’ve lived in Norway all your life, moving from Mosjøen, a small city in Northern Norway to the Arts and Crafts at the University of Bergen to be educated and later moving to Søgne, in the southern part of the country. I can imagine that each of these places, although in the same region, have had different impacts on you. What about these places do you think has influenced your work the most?
Ann Beate Tempelhaug (ABT): It can be difficult to value these matters, as they all live inside me and are very dear to me through their subconscious impact on my life and work. That being said, I’m easily captivated by the landscapes around me in the Southern part of Norway, as well as the mountainous areas towards the West. Not only because of their fascinating dramatic shapes and sharp contrasts — but because of what they signify; as the Danish artist Per Kirkeby once said: “Landscapes are always about beauty and death”. By taking the landscape as inspiration, my work connects to my own life and my memories. The moment and the present are essential concepts throughout my pieces, and by using my specific ceramic- and colouring methods, my practice aims to create awareness of how these notions can be experienced.
TLmag: How does your methodology relate to these ephemeral concepts?
ABT: In both life and work, it feels like I am always looking, and I have been looking for many years. It is a deep curiosity — an ongoing urge to find answers or new questions. By using clay, I’m not limited by a standardised canvas, nor are the compositions that I create. Taking things one day at a time, I see my practice as one that engages with my entire being. As I move along the outline of the large ceramic structures that I worked with — it feels as I can embody the freedom that it allows me: to look at it, observe it, and catch it.
My use of colour is also crucial to this, as I relate to them as a substance that is continuously in translation. It is when they are used in combination with ceramics that the qualities that I’m searching for appear. As the ceramic oxides, stains, glazes and embodies the work, colours seem to have endless varieties and ranges in terms of gloss, transparency, tactility, and depth. That’s also why I also get a lot of inspiration directly from the surface of my artwork as it develops because it never stops changing. When I’m painting, I have to “translate” the colours continuously; they fade into shadows of themselves, in their wet and especially in their “dry” state. That’s also a reason why I fire my works several times, and not just once. Each firing can take up to five days and takes place in a ceramic kiln that fires up to temperatures of 1270°C — and each time a completely new piece is (re)born from its flames.
TLmag: The large, heavy and almost faded colours within the aesthetic of your wall pieces are quite distinctive — almost have a somewhat ancient and everlasting feel about them. What inspired you to work with such massive proportions?
ABT: I tried to achieve the same qualities in smaller pieces, but I realised quite quickly that it works better when I scale them upwards. After this realisation, I made myself a promise that I would one day make a ceramic piece that is taller than myself in an effort to further connect myself to life and the art that makes it worthwhile. I feel as though it has taken me a lifetime to reach the point that I have gotten to today. I have been working with big wall pieces for more than thirty years, with some pieces — like RETURN — taking me ten years to achieve. I am constantly challenged by the freedom and the sense of place it gives me, and my desire to break and move the borders of my ceramic works continues to drive me, as it still remains to be an exciting journey to be on.
TLmag: What do you hope people take away from your works?
ABT: Art is important, and is not only lifesaving — but life-giving. In that sense, I hope that my works goes beyond maintaining ‘just’ my own curiosity and can be transferred and found within the people who experience my works.