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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

The Unknown Side of Danish Art: Ceramics and Clay

Article by: Helen Kurvits

Danish Art and Design

Denmark is known to many for being the home of Hans Christian Andersen, LEGO, modern design and for the concept of “hygge” – a cosy feeling of togetherness. Danish art and design in particular has a unique character. Undoubtedly one of the places where it is beautifully showcased is the Trapholt Museum in the town of Kolding. And it attracts not only those curious about modern art and design. With its scenic location overlooking the Kolding Fjord in the Naturpark Lillebælt and set within a large sculpture park, the museum’s harmony with its surroundings is a piece of art in itself. On the other side of Denmark’s largest nature park, the Clay Museum of Ceramic Art stays true to its name by exhibiting the crafts of ceramics and displaying the Royal Copenhagen Collection. It offers a chronological journey through more than two centuries of ceramics history.

Nanna Ditzel: Creativity and Interaction

In 2023, Nanna Ditzel, a 21st-century Danish designer, celebrates her 100th birthday. She became one of the most distinctive figures in Danish art during her 60-year career. Trapholt’s exhibition of Nanna Ditzel is the most extensive collection of Ditzel’s work ever displayed: a tale of expressing oneself and being in touch with the inspiration that art, culture, nature, and everyday life can offer. Ditzel was taught by, among others, Kaare Klint; the artist regarded today as the reformer who radically abandoned traditional and style-focused teaching. Klint instead focused on the more practical studies of architecture and furniture design. Nevertheless, at a later time, Nanna Ditzel herself broke away from the Klintian school of thought to follow her own path. For Ditzel, creativity could only truly flourish in its interaction between materials, tools, machines, and people. Concepts of both interaction and reality constituted a significant part of her work. She took what was already there and borrowed from reality, and everything she created was the result of the interaction with others.

Richard Mortensen and His Interplay of Painting and Architecture

As well as Nanna Ditzel’s art, the Trapholt exhibits the work of Richard Mortensen – an artist focussing on the interplay between painting and architecture. During his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, he was influenced by the works of Vassily Kandinsky and developed a more abstract art style as a result. Trapholt boasts a dedicated Richard Mortensen room; the artist created a series of paintings especially for it. When the museum was still in its process of “creation”, Mortensen proposed that if the architects created a room dedicated to his art, he would create paintings especially for the museum. The exhibited paintings draw inspiration from an East Asian myth, the “tale of cow”, that Mortensen first became acquainted with as a young man. While at first sight, the paintings depict a straightforward narrative of a cowherd’s quest to find his lost cow, the story carries a more profound, underlying significance. The myth encapsulates the journey of a man who gains profound insight into life’s existential questions and ventures forth into the world to share his experience – narrating the Tale of the Cow. The works exhibited at Trapholt represent Mortensen’s perception and expression of states of mind.

A Trail of Clay

Not far from the Mortensen room and the Trapholt Museum is the Clay Museum of Ceramic Art which has one of Europe’s most outstanding collections of ceramics. The name of the museum is rooted in the 1980s, namely dating back to an international organisation called Clay Today and a group of Danish art enthusiasts that became members of the group. The Clay Museum happens to be the end point of the Ceramics Trail in Middelfart. The Trail starts at the Town Hall and proceeds to guide one through the town in a journey to discover ceramic sculptures in an urban environment, unveiling the diversity of the art form. The trail also exhibits work from members of the group Clay Today, such as Betty Engholm, and features works of Norwegian artists like Magne Furuholmen, whose piece can be seen in front of the St Nicholas Church.

From a Beach in New Zealand to the Shores of Naturpark Lillebælt

Returning to the Trapholt Museum, there is one artist without whom an exploration of Danish design would be incomplete: The museum dedicates a house to Arne Jacobsen. Many know Arne Jacobsen for his chair designs, but the museum offers an alternative perspective of his work. The work of Jacobsen is exhibited in a house of his own design. Before its relocation to the Trapholt Museum at the Naturpark Lillebælt, the modular house was located on a southern New Zealand beach for many years and served as a summer house for the Jacobsen family. Few knew of its existence before it was made accessible to the general public at Trapholt. The dining and living rooms of the house exhibit Jacobsen’s other designs, such as his Cylinda-line series or Vola line of faucets. The structure of the house centres around modules shaped like cubes that can be rearranged thus the house is able to change its layout and design. Due to this distinct feature, the house is also known as Kubeflex.

A Tale of Two Stories

The Trapholt Museum and the Clay Museum of Ceramic Art provide an incredibly valuable and often underappreciated opportunity to delve into the hidden facets of Danish culture and immerse oneself in contemporary art and design. Additionally, the Ceramics Trail in Middelfart encompasses unique creations by artists who are associated with the Clay Today group. Together, they are able to give those who take a visit the ability to break free from a limited view of art and explore unique, imaginative and beautiful Scandinavian creations.

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