For many years, Guido Geelen has cast all sorts of living and non-living things, transforming them into unusual metal and ceramic sculptures. His celadon-glazed clay slabs, stacked high and pierced with holes to receive flowers, are one of his many versions of the Delftware tulip vase–echoing the assimilation of Chinese porcelain by the seventeenth-century Dutch craze for tulips. Now they are museum-shop staples, often made in China.
It takes a lot of effort to get opinionated Venetian master glass-blowers to work in samurai discipline and Japanese minimalism. Ritsue Mishima literally wields the baton in these history-drenched workshops, coaxing them to embody her drawings as crystalline sculptures, massive yet filigree, which seem to trap the light. Fantasies of the lagoon come to life, achromatic and thus more poetic–a nudge back to the glory of Murano's eleventh-century clear-glass origins.
When a flowery digital scanogram meets the master weavers of Flanders, it evokes anachronist feelings, reviving the sixteenth-century millefleur tradition. You wouldn't expect such a subtle tapestry from a Brazilian artist, but Luzia Simons does this intentionally as part of her abiding appropriation of tulips as a symbol of cultural transfer and her identity quest as an outsider. Don't be fooled. Simons mounts a sophisticated form of critique as an emulator of European patterns.
Contemporary crafts are at their best when beauty encounters some form of the bizarre, when manufacturing traditions are twisted to their core, when instead of echoing past eras it challenges us to fathom a new language with a familiar alphabet. Dutch tulip vases, Murano glass and Flemish tapestries are examples of artefacts that carry astounding cultural significance and have played a significant role in shaping taste in European art history, both among royalty and the bourgeoisie. These three artists prove that these art forms are still evolving. They are compelled to digest these deep-rooted traditions, to pursue new ways of reacting to and blending cultural references, inevitably transforming them into handcraft as an act of nonconformism. Very much the essence of Brutto Gusto.
Press release courtesy Brutto Gusto. Text: Aldonso Palacio.