The vessel has always had a special place in classrooms in the ceramics department at Burg Giebichenstein in Halle. Its conceptual interior and sculptural exterior inspire students to personally grapple with the vessel. For Johannes Nagel, a graduate and former artistic collaborator, the vessel is above all an exemplary object, a prototypical and fundamental shape for creative artists to explore.
Johannes Nagel digs his forms from molds made of sand. Duden, the German language authority, explains that “dig” can have two meanings: either to dig in search of something or to bring something to light by digging. Nagel is not primarily concerned with the vessel as the end result. The act of digging per se is the assertion of his work. The vessel’s size, determined by the length of its creator’s arm, makes the ceramic thesis artisanally manageable. Interfaces of the construction, suggestions of painting or decorations are likewise to be understood as assertions. The improvised gesture of digging, the gluing and the rapid brush strokes become concrete through the firing. The vessel that finally emerges from the kiln is their evidence, but fervently denies their existence because it is displayed upside down.
A vessel is always also a mirror of its time. Show me your vessel and I’ll tell you who you are. Nagel’s vessels not only reflect his personal process of working and thinking, but are also reflections of our present era. A century after the founding of the highly celebrated Bauhaus, little remains of its most famous motto: Form follows function? On the contrary, contemporary forms are blurred, shapeless, unstable and wobbly, standing on their heads and calling into question all the rules of ceramics. There is no need to ask for a function. Design strategies from the fine arts or music (e.g. rhythm, montage or destruction) have also found their way into the applied arts and lead makers of vessels to indulge in extravagant excesses. The vessel accordingly illustrates the uncertainties of contemporary society, which must bid farewell to its former constants and certainties.
However, it would be too brief to leave the description of Nagel’s works at that, because something else too is striking: Nagel’s exuberant imagination gives rise to countless variations that never cease to surprise their viewer. Form result not solely from research, but also from pleasure. Nagel’s earnest quest for concept and form is accompanied by an eccentric divertimento that’s likely to upend both the vessel and its viewer.
Due to the current situation, no vernissage can take place.
- Keramikmuseum Westerwald
- daily, except Mondays