Image: Ocean Viking, Commemorative plates in porcelain made by Gunhild Vatn, OsloMet. Photo: Susann Jamtøy
Craft with its ambiguous character can combine the conceptual potential in arts, and the pragmatic function of a design object.
By Gunhild Vatn and Arild Berg, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University
CraftHub promotes reflections on creativity, inspiration and passion in craft, and participants in the project work with outreach activities of craft to new audiences both in education and in the society. CraftHub will prove a wide array of practices and will show examples from the current landscape of craft in Europe. One of the projects from OsloMet is showing the role that craft can have as a critical comment to a socio-political context. This is reflected in artist Gunhild Vatn’s project about ‘Transferring Oil Beauty into Porcelain.’
Gunhild reflects about her craft practice: ‘I have a special passion for porcelain, and this beautiful material is a true source of inspiration in my artwork. Through searching for new visual expressions in porcelain, I aim to create an illusion of industrial perfection with an ambiguous expression that can be beautiful but at the same time disturbing. Performing a social critic through art is also a source of inspiration in my work. Crafting in porcelain is a slow process. This contrasts with today’s rapidly changing discussions and exchanges of views on social media. As a ceramicist, I have often questioned the socio-political potential of contemporary craft. Craft has a creative and expressive potential due to its ambiguous position between art and design. Craft with its ambiguous character can combine the conceptual potential in arts, and the pragmatic function of a design object.
The Ambivalence of Oil Aesthetics, is an artistic research project, based on documentary photographs of Norway’s first Oil platform Ocean Viking. The historical photos have an aura of beauty and nostalgia, and they reflect the story of a successful industrial adventure and the promise of prosperity and immense riches. In my art project, the images have been transferred by using transfer decals into porcelain plates. The commemorative plates are used to highlight the oil platform as Norway’s national treasures and cultural heritage, like viking ships and stave churches. The porcelain plates have been showed in several exhibitions, looking to use the potential of contemporary craft to reflect upon Norway’s role as an Oil Nation. With a more complex contemporary reading, this topic also provokes a more dystopic and negatively charged image, pointing at the environmental consequences of this activity. This ambiguity between beauty and dystopia expresses a dilemma, questioning the ideological hegemony that anchors Norway’s prosperity to the continued extraction of oil.
The project connects to the Creative Europe project ‘Oslofjord ecologies’, initiated by Kristin Bergaust, (Bergaust, Smite and Silina) Co-Founded by Creative Europe, Nordplus and OsloMet. Collaboration with other institutions, artists, and researchers, and building networks enabled by Creative Europe is important and inspiring for artistic research, with valuable experiences for future interdisciplinary projects in Horizon Europe. Being part of CraftHub is an opportunity to contribute to show a wide array of craft practices in Europe, and to develop craft skills necessary to meet the new demands of the 21st century’s challenges with a growing need for skills in creativity and collaboration. As a partner, OsloMet contributes to CraftHub with artistic research projects from the Faculty of Technology, Art, and Design.
Gunhild Vatn, Ceramic Artist and Associate Professor, Department of Art, Design and Drama. OsloMet: https://www.oslomet.no/en/about/employee/gvat/
Arild Berg, Professor in Artistic Research, Department of Product Design, OsloMet: https://www.oslomet.no/about/employee/arildber/