Jul 13

De Groene Amstedammer

A masterclass art critic writing published on the website “De Groene Amsterdammer” featuring my works.

De legitimatie van de afdeling Keramiek – Mentaal rondrollen met gebakken aardewerk : written by Jan Wester, 10 July 2016  

Click here to view the article (in dutch) on Groene Amsterdammer.

An english translation of the article:

The legitimatisation of de Ceramics Department

Experiencing fired stoneware

This year again The Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam organised a Masterclass Art Criticism for young art critics ,philosophers and literary critics and  students in literary theory. Under the supervision of art critic and curator Lucette ter Borg( NRC Handelsblad,  a quality newspaper) nine trainee writers learnt how to write a review on art during their visit to the  final exams of some 180  students at this Academy. We publish the three best entries on the website  ( of the Groene Amsterdammer )

By Jan Webster 10-07-2016

Every year the Rietveld Academy organises a big exhibition of all the works by the students of that year. I have to admit, this year I went there with a specific interest, namely in the Department of Ceramics


A small department, perhaps even a threatened department: if not financially then at least artistically.


I don’t think we can deny that ceramics provoke strong associations. Dinner services.  Tiles. Tradition. Techniques. You might ask why an Academy which mainly works from a conceptual angle has a department that takes something as fundamental as earth as a starting point. One might even wonder if this department really belongs to the Rietveld Academy when five out if the nine students have directly entered the department and, consequently, never took part in the first year studies that are so typical for the Rietveld Academy. How do the future ceramic artists relate to the associations that their medium entails?


I walk into the first room. On the wall is a work of art that almost covers the wall entirely. It consists of straight lines of white tiles. Tiles. Onto each tile four yellow fragments of seemingly random size have been glazed. As the size of the fragments is so varied, from the size of a fist down to the size of a bluebottle, this work seems to represent an irregularity in spite of the strong pattern of the white tiles. This is further enhanced by the fact that not only some of the fragments are of a different colour, but also because sometimes differently coloured glazes have been worked onto the tiles.


In fact, I find this an intriguing work. Fragments – a real fragments, rough and a light yellow. It  gives me an muddy feeling in which I can wallow.


I walk in to the second room. Rows of rectangular ceramic panels have been attached to the wall. I recognise them as glaze proofs. Each panel has been treated with a similar, but on closer inspection a slightly different mix of the elements. Next to it are two more round red surfaces framed in white paper. The most striking one is a surface of red fired earthenware covered in a blueish, crystalized glaze. Into its surface a scratch has been made through which the red of the earthenware becomes visible. I allow my eyes to sink into the dark blue textures of the glaze. A sense of the unreal gets hold of me, as the Dutch have when they are confronted with a mountain.


The accompanying text says that through experimenting the Singapore artist Wei Keong Tan has tried to come to the essence of this sort of glaze, which is known never to come out of the oven in the same form. In this way he hopes to control the glaze.


Having the question in mind with which I started on this exhibition, I gently approach Nicolaas van de Lande and Mariska Koolen, the team that made the tableaus in the first room. How do they look upon the dull image that ceramics have?


They say that their work should be understood in the relation to the art of painting rather than to the art of ceramics. Mariska and Nicolaas question the way the autonomous art of painting relates to the art of decorating. Ceramics is only a substance within this this quest, and its function has not been looked into. They could equally well have used rubber tiles. One of them even questions the right of existence of ceramics as separate department.


Whereas Wei has defined strict parameters and fully focusses on investigating the effects of a specific kind of glaze on ceramics, Nicolaas and Mariska consider the application of ceramics and glaze almost accidental.  On the one hand their respective works have a common denominator, tiles, but on the other hand they are miles apart.


By constantly researching a specific element within ceramics, the glaze, and on top of that just one specific type of glaze Wei´s work acquires depth. It is not about the urge of man to control an unpredictable process, it is the manifestation of it. If the department of Ceramics wants to find its right of existence, it should take the example from  Wei´s approach. Only there are opportunities of expression that can hardly be explored in any other Departments, perhaps with the exception of Glass. It´s freedom within constriction. This is the essence of Wei’s work.


Jan Wester 1995 studies art at the Reitveld Academy and philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.


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