Henriette Noermark

“Everything is a mystery, ourselves, and all thingsboth simple and humble.”

Giorgio Morandi

Silently, dawn suggests a potential for newbeginnings, or a momentary bliss, in this transitional period of the day. Thevery first glimpses of the sun reach the windowsill, illuminating the placedobjects. There is something immensely soothing in the way they come to life inthe bright, early minutes of a new day where everything is clearing— realityhas yet to fully make its mark. Making straightforward and inconspicuousobjects - those on the verge of being overlooked - noteworthy and evensophisticated, seems to be contradictory, nonetheless it is what Danish ceramicartist Marie Herwald Hermann does. Because the commonplace objects and momentsthat we take for granted are filled with stories of a life lived, providingglimpses of cultural heritage and personal memories. Rather than thespectacular, Hermann is fascinated by the prosaic, the quiet, the soft. As aloving nod to domestic life, parts of her sculptures refer to the inanimatesubjects of household - a vase, a cup, a bowl. These recurring motifs, oftenpaired with and placed on a shelf or a plate, are characterized by clean,straight lines, a striking color palette and a level of perfect craftsmanship.When her sculptural interventions are viewed adjacent to one another, installedside by side, the powerfully intense effect of repetition stands out, invitingone to look, then to look again—and keep looking.

We arrange. We group and position objects constantly,often without noticing. “In everyday life we are present, we just findourselves being, in our bodies, in our home. Here, we are preoccupied withphysical chores, we gather around the dinner table, create relationships andconnections”, she says. In those unspectacular moments, there is enough silenceto offer room for thoughts. This presence is as intuitive as throwing on thewheel, which now, after decades, is where her body does the work while her mindcan wander within the space of an extended pause. It is such a tactile,tangible experience, not unlike her childhood memories of visits toThorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen or the furniture in her home chosen by herarchitect parents. Keenly aware of her Danish heritage, her work belongs to along tradition of ceramic art and modernism in architecture and furniture -from the soft and humane lines on the 1930s to the clean, lines of the1950s-1970s, free of symbolism. Hermann carries these influences into herceramic practice.

In her work, Hermann questions the notion ofrecognizability, and subsequently, those of emotions and understanding –because, she asks, how well do we truly know the things we surround ourselveswith? She challenges the viewer’s memory and narrative. These silent questionslinger, disturbing our common apparatus of understanding. Instead, we begin toponder any for granted sense of what it means for something to truly bepresent. Just as we consider possibilities and opportunities in life, we mustalso consider the consequences our decisions entail. Softly urging thesame kind of mindful viewing like a Giorgio Morandi still life painting, theceramic sculptures are small pauses in our everyday lives. A pause to reflect,to wonder, to reset, to enter into a new dawn. Like reading poetry or listeningto a well-composed piece of classical music. Ever since Hermann was a child,she has found poetry liberating: the absence of rules and strict grammar, thefree-flowing words that balance through the text like a line dancer on astretched string. The first words might be intriguing out of context, separatedand alone, but if you combine them into sentences, thus forming a body, theybecome compelling, engaging, intriguing - and readable. Hence, she often usesthe word "and" in her titles, as a subtle note that everything ispart of a context and that each stanza relates to the next. And a haze,lifted. And dusk, at dawn. And the walls became the world all around. And thesilence returned. In her work, words and objects alike are strong incontext as well-formed sentences with pauses that are about presence ratherthan absence. You build on something already existing, subtract and add - andthe next line is what completes the installation. The shelves bind the objectstogether and support, both physically and metaphorically, the shape and thelanguage.

Like a painter, Hermann draws lines. Referencing both1700’s paintings and classical Morandi still life compositions, herinstallations are paintings turned three dimensional. Whereas Morandi leftvisible brush strokes, Hermann leaves no fingerprints behind, but shapes andglazes her work to perfection. Morandi, the Italian master of natura morta,depicted jars, bowls, vases, jugs and bottles in his oil paintings, shining alight on utterly unremarkable objects. However, when grouped together inarrangements, the objects became something rather thananything. Not unlike the sculptural vocabulary of Donald Judd, there arevarious echoes of forms and hues in the ceramics of Marie Hermann as well.Objects as quotidian as a shelf form the base for many of her installations.One example, And dusk turned dawn, Blackthorn #T from 2015, isa crisp white stoneware and unfired clay sculpture consisting of a shelf with a3¼ inch vase and a long hand molded object on the far left. Both silent andinsisting, distinguished and unpretentious, the installation seems emblematicof her practice: the epitome of precision, illuminating her penchant forembracing the odd one out, the tiny detail that makes the installation pulsatewith life. The winter bedroom at The Block (La Mansana de Chinati) in Marfa,Texas, or the kitchen of 101 Spring Street, New York, bears evidence of a lifeimbued with that intriguing extra quivering element. At first glance,everything is typical Judd: Minimalist, ornament-free, rigorous anduncompromisingly austere. On further inspection, like a natura morta, everydayobjects and collectibles are placed side by side, arranged in themes, but exudinglife. Collections of colorful, patterned kilim rugs on the floors, daybeds andwalls, stacks of ceramic plates, pots and cups, pitchers and bottles. MarieHermann places her objects as entities, or words, next to each other andseemingly static, but always with the potential of them being moved andrearranged. Like a painting that does not change after the last brushstroke,the works gain their significance when arranged by her.

So, there they are: on the shelves, side by side,placed, like brush drawings in a particular light, or as two-dimensionaldrawings where the warmth from a sunrise makes the perspective change andemphasizes the contours. Subtle, little phrases that tell the poetry of thequotidian - a verse comprised of memories and the need for balance. A balancingact and a mystery all on its own.

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