Shells and sand dunes are the inspiration for Scandinavian artist Merete Rasmussen’s complex and beautiful new sculptures, which coil, fold and loop the loop with the fluency of natural forms. Known for her abstract ceramics, Rasmussen makes a departure in a new exhibition at London’s Pangolin gallery (Friday December 4 to Saturday January 16) with a collection of bronzes – slivered and spliced versions of her clay sculptures that focus on the sinuousness of one continuous surface or, as mathematicians call it, a Möbius strip.
Rasmussen has exhibited widely and her work is held in a number of public collections – including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, France’s National Fund for Contemporary Art, and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge – but her story begins in Copenhagen, historically the home of some of the world’s best ceramicists, and where she was born, and Sweden, where she was brought up. As a child, she started moulding sculptures out of garden clay, and later, when she returned to Denmark to study at the Designskolen in Kolding, she was inspired by the iconic designs of her fellow Danes Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton – as well as British sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth. But it is the natural world that has provided her greatest inspiration and she was particularly affected, she says, by the sand dunes of Namibia. Rasmussen’s studio is now in south London, where she works mainly in stoneware, using the coil technique to make all her pieces using her bare hands and select carving tools.
Despite their apparent fragility and complicated contours, her sculptures hold their shape to the point of defiance. “Different form expressions appeal to me and result in continuous exploration,” she says. “There are soft but precise curves, sharp edges, concave surfaces shifting to convex – the discovery and strength of an inner or negative space. I am intrigued by the idea of a continuous surface: for example, with one connected edge running through an entire form.” Bold colours distinguish her works as much as their shape. “I enjoy experimenting with glazes,” she says. “And I like finding out what colour works with what temperature”.
This new exhibition will include one monumental and three smaller bronzes (£12,000-£80,000; example in third picture) that coil and collapse like giant slinkies. It is the ceramics (£5,250-£18,000), however, that steal the show; the orange (first picture) and pale blue (second picture) sculptures are particularly captivating. The works look so light they delude the eye into thinking they are made of paper, and their colours have the intense powdery appeal of works by Anish Kapoor.
Part alchemist, part mathematician, part poet – this artist is one to watch.