Caro Suerkemper

In heisser Lieb’ gebraten (Roasted in burning love) – an emphatic encounter

While working on a stipend near Deruta, which is still one of the main centres for making Italian majolica, Caro Suerkemper – otherwise well known for her gentle gouaches with a hidden meaning – rediscovered this ceramic technique for herself. Why not experiment with using the plate as an architecturally defined space in which to paint, develop a painting style based on the repertoire of on-glaze colours, have her cheeky subjects appear from the bottom of the bowl as the food is eaten up? – The results made her keen to continue, and a residency at the European Ceramic Work Centre in ’s-Hertogenbosch, an international workplace where artists, architects and designers explore the technical possibilities of ceramics, took her a stage further. Her painted figures became three-dimensional.

She concentrated entirely on ceramic as the material to embody her vision. With an enthusiasm that knew no bounds, she tackled the complex technical science and, driven by her unerring artistic instincts, mastered it. She immersed herself in this material for a long time, developing her own methods of production, finding experts in all the technical aspects that were important to her such as mould-making and firing, even exploring the tricky area of on-glaze painting for her own ends, so that it seemed entirely natural for an impression of gouache to creep in as the surface beneath the glaze, or for reflective surfaces to take on the appearance of suits of armour. Behind every detail of the final effect is a whole genealogy of technical processes of which the viewer is entirely unaware.
In her moulding, too, she has succeeded in transferring her unique style directly to the ceramic material, the clay. Always to be found with a lump of clay in her hand, she kneads and shapes it with the same ease with which she sketches. Unusually, she builds her figures from the top downwards. The top of the head and the face are the first to appear. Gradually she creates the main figures and body parts until she arrives at the ends of the feet, and the plinth. – The directness of the moulding, kneading and modelling enables her to transfer all the spontaneity of her artistic vision from her hands through her fingertips to the figure. There is the same liveliness of expression which causes art historians to wax lyrical about “bozzetti” (preliminary working models). In the work of Caro Suerkemper, we find this quality in the texture of the skin, with its endearing little dimples, the upturned noses, the indignant chins, the curiously rapt gaze, the entwined or grabbing hands, and also in the deliberate vagueness which allows room for the imagination, before finally culminating in the fully rounded, exuberant, movement-filled composition. With loving irony, she expresses her delight in the female body, and how it twists and turns, as a “figura serpentinata”, one of the typical styles in Mannerism, which she adapts for the present day with her natural verve.

The artist has moved her figures into the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, where they will enter into an uninhibited dialogue with the past in the period-themed rooms of the historic Villa Metzler. For Suerkemper, historic objects are not dead material: whether it is baroque porcelain or furniture, she feels a sensory connection with them, in the powerful presence of works which occupy their space with the utmost certainty of their own good taste and dignity. – Nine domestic and furnished scenes, room collages reflecting eras from Baroque to Art Nouveau, composed and constructed from the museum’s collections and with the help of replica wallpapers and coordinating textiles, create – from the artist’s point of view – a pantheistic landscape in which her figures can move. – Just as the room settings in the Villa take us back to different eras of history, so the title of the exhibition “Roasted in burning love” – a line from a Lutheran Easter hymn (1524) – hints, with its dramatic power, at one side of the German Renaissance. The choice of title gives poetic emphasis to the contradictions within Suerkemper’s creatures. They, for their part, attempt to assert their position, to confront the uninterrupted desire for beauty, the perfect aesthetic, and to disturb its hermetic existence with fantasies about sensuality and (im)morality. Like weeds growing wild, they are as if camouflaged in their environment, mixing in with this exclusive community, balancing like lustful martyrs on a pillar or holding empty plates towards us. They loll around, wrestle, tear at each other’s hair, sit vacantly like sacrifices in a bowl, or stand lost and homeless among the travelling paraphernalia of the Biedermeier period. – Insidiously, subliminally and apparently innocently, Caro Suerkemper’s creations compel us to look in a new way at the silent assembled witnesses of those days, infiltrating a subtly different level of perception into the image that has been constructed and leaving the visitor with a titillating doubt about what may really be going on here.

Sabine Runde 2012
Translated by
Galerie Römerapotheke, Rämistrasse 18, CH - 8001 Zürich | | Impressum | top