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Playing with Fire: Edmund de Waal and Axel Salto

Edmund de Waal has curated an exhibition of acclaimed Danish ceramicist Axel Salto (1889–1961), considered one of the greatest masters of 20th Century ceramic art.

 The exhibition brings together a significant number of Salto’s ceramic works from the collection of CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art, Denmark, and The Tangen Collection at Kunstsilo, the world’s largest collection of Nordic modernist art. Salto’s ceramics are being shown alongside lesser-known and unseen works on paper, illustrations, writings and textiles, with a major new installation by de Waal reflecting on Salto’s enduring influence.

“Axel Salto is one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. He created a unique body of ceramic work that continues to fascinate me. His sculptures seem to be on the point of change: glazes are caught in flux. Vases swell as if to burst. He cared about the ways that patterns change course, shift energies, how an animal becomes a person, a man metamorphoses into a stag. Ovid ran powerfully through his life. That moment of change, transformation, is the moment when poetry occurs.” Edmund de Waal

 HK Architects have collaborated with Edmund de Waal on the exhibition design of this international touring show.

 It has been conceived as a series of three separate spaces, each with their own unique spatial and material qualities. The show opens with a representation of the kiln, filled with stoneware vessels viewed not behind glass, but set on an open tiered structure, allowing the visitor an unprecedented view of the work  – of glazes in flux across the organic sprouting and budding forms of the vessels. Dark and sparsely lit, this is a space of tension and disquiet.

 The exhibition then opens out into a series of Birch ply pavilions, which form the setting for an exploration of Salto’s textiles, works on paper and further clay works. This is a world of colour and line and of joy and playfulness. There is a pavilion dedicated to play in which children can stamp their own works, using reproductions of the stamps from Salto’s 1943 book ‘Tryk Dine Selv Billeder’ (Print Your Own Pictures).

 The exhibition closes with a major new work by Edmund de Waal, titled ‘The Burning Now’, a pavilion whose external walls are coated with liquid porcelain in which de Waal continues his dialogue with Salto through words seen and unseen inscribed into the wet clay slip. Inside is a triptych and smaller vitrine of new works.

The project has been made possible through a generous grant from the AKO Foundation.

Photo credit: Claus Fisker/ CLAY
Copyright: Axel Salto/ VISDA