Societal reflections in clay

22 mar 2011
By Nanna Skov (translated into English)

Samfundsrefleksioner i ler
Linda Sormin’s sculptures appear as weathered mixes of different ceramic materials (Photo: Linda Sormin)

Doctors can be used for anything other than Christmas decorations and homemade ashtrays. In the hands of Canadian Linda Sormin, the clay is used to express themselves about complex social and social conditions.

As I step in the door of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts ceremony Wednesday morning, a tiny and grand black woman is wearing big fireproof gloves just in the process of lifting a scarlet and pearly sculpture from the oven. It looks like an abstract and weathered building design in miniature format.

Linda Sormin i færd med at glasere en af sine skulpturer (Foto: Anders Sune Berg)
Linda Sormin in the process of glazing one of her sculptures (Photo: Anders Sune Berg)

“Useful” Abstract Sculptures

While I’m allowed to carry the jug with herbal tea, Sormin takes care of the newly created sculpture and shows me upstairs to the room where she is in the process of constructing plateaus and gait systems that the audience has to move around in the total installation Howling Room at Gl. Holtegaard. Sormin guides me all the way she explains how she creates her ceramic sculptures.

“I build my sculptures up to a point where they can not handle more weight. Then they are glazed and burned, and then I build even more upstairs. And either they hold or do not do it – insecurity and fragility are part of the life of sculptures. ”

Around the globe stands colorful paintings, some chaotic and intricate architectural building complexes, others more organic with swung arches. And here and here, Royal Copenhagen plates, chicory porcelain cranes and Chinese porcelain shells look forward to the sculptures.

Sormin laughs and explains the ceramic kitsch objects:

“Abstract sculptures often become important to me, so I like to remove the seriousness of them with recognizable things. A bit like ceramic waste products that have been absorbed by the sculpture.”
(Foto: Linda Sormin)
(Foto: Linda Sormin)

(Foto: Nanna Skov)
(Foto: Nanna Skov)

Social and cultural structures

That Sormin’s sculptures are reminiscent of abstract architectural models, is not a coincidence. For her, the sculptures reflect on how we build our society in both physical and mental terms.

“I am very interested in how we build structures in society that either support themselves or end up collapsing. We spend a lot of time creating and building things in our culture, but we do not always have foresight and wisdom to predict when it will not last longer. Instead, we continue to push and expand. The processes fascinate me.”

Totalinstallationen Howling Room på Gl. Holtegaard kommer til at bestå af gangsystemer og lerskulpturer (Foto: Linda Sormin)

Bad workmanship

The work process itself is therefore a constant experiment with how far Sormin can push the clay as material – how large the sculptures can be, how many burns can endure and how many different types of clay, glaze and ceramic materials she can mix with each other . “I think many craftsmen would say that my work is bad craftsmanship. The rule of ceramics is that you do not put different types of clay together, “she points to the newly crafted sculpture now standing on the table and saying strange” ping “sounds,” right now the two clay materials struggle to cling together or simply fall apart – that is why the sculpture says sounds. “

(Foto: Nanna Skov)
(Foto: Nanna Skov)

(Foto: Linda Sormin)
(Foto: Linda Sormin)

Metaphors in clay

Bad crafts or not, Sormin’s sculptures appear chaotic, fragile, weathered and colorful at once. And while challenging the standards of ceramic crafts practice, they also become metaphorical comments on social conditions and conditions.

“Conceptually, I’m interested in mixing different origins of clay-I see it as a metaphor for many relationships in society. It’s about me mixing the languages of the different materials and mixing foreign things that are not always recognized by people.

“And if the sculptures break or break parts, it is just a consequence of the constant experiment and just underlining the fragile nature of constructions. 

Valuation of Objects

While we surround ourselves with the unfinished paths of recycled materials, Sormin tells us about Howling Room . The inspiration for the work has been ‘faith and doubt’.

“Today, we are much more comfortable with doubts and skepticism than with faith and hope – objects that are temporary and can only be thrown away and degrade make us more safe than objects that actually mean something to us. That’s the dilemma I’ve been working on. ”

The theme has also resulted in the sculptures of this exhibition ending with another, more precious meaning for the artist than her previous works, which she usually breaks down and recycles in new installations.
Linda Sormin ved et udpluk af de skulpturer, som kommer til at udgøre totalinstallationen Howling Room på Gl. Holtegaard (Foto:Nanna Skov)

Learning as conceptual media
Normally, laughs may not be the first material the thought falls upon when trying to express themselves about dichotomy ‘faith and doubt’ or about conditions in society. Rather, it is a material most of which is associated with self-made ashtrays from forming in primary school.

But the fact that clay is not immediately associated with contemporary art is the core of Sormin’s art practice:

”The clay is a special material. For some people, it arouses recognition, because others breed it contempt and the attitude ‘It’s not a conceptual material’. But all the gender, nationality and class associations that you associate with the clay, I think makes it an interesting medium to designate a critique of social conditions throughout. “

Linda Sormin was born in Bangkok, but emigrated to Canada with her Indonesian father and Chinese mother and lives today in the United States where she teaches ceramics at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is initially trained as a craftsman from Alfred University in 2003.

In connection with the Howling Room installation on Gl. Holtegaard, Sormin has worked for a month in Denmark with the support of the Danish Arts Council’s DIVA scheme. The exhibition is her first in Denmark.

Gl. Holtegaard’s Leret magic – Ceramics in International Contemporary Art opens on March 25th and features Linda Sormin’s installation works by Ai Weiwei (CN), Alexander Tovborg (DK), Alexandra Engelfriet (NL), Clare Twomey (GB), David Cushway (GB), Grayson Perry (GB), Hylton Nel (ZA), John Runner (DK), Jonathan Meese (DE), Kaspar Bonnén (DK), Klara Kristalova (SE) and Thea Djordjadze (GE).