Bodil Manz: Exploration of Form

24 May - 1 September 2013

World renowned ceramicist, Bodil Manz, uses the gentle fragility of eggshell porcelain and dominance of utilitarian white and block colour to create breath-taking ceramic vessels. Her near paper-thin cast porcelain cylinders are so translucent that you can often discern the light and shadow passing through both walls of a pot blending interior with exterior. Throughout her career Manz has produced ceramics for use instilling a sense of domesticity in her work. As a former family holiday home filled with masterful decoration and design, Blackwell is the ideal setting for Manz’s unique vessels.

Born in Copenhagen Manz has had solo exhibitions in Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, London and New York and in 2008 was honoured with a major retrospective exhibition at the Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen. In 2007 she was awarded the Grand Prize at the 4th World Ceramic Biennale, South Korea.

Bodil Manz: Exploration of Form

‘The decoration is placed both on the inside and the outside of the shape and forms, together with the transparent biscuit and with the help of light, a compact whole’ Bodil Manz

Bodil Manz is one of the most celebrated Danish ceramicists working today. Since the early days creating ceramics in her workshop, she has made objects for use whether that is jugs, sugar bowls or plates, rooting her work in the domestic sphere. Her exploration of the cylinder has echoed throughout her artistic career. The cylinder is a familiar form produced for thousands of years by countless makers. To reinvent it and make it your own is challenging, yet is something Manz consistently achieves.

Manz’s signature work could be described as eggshell-thin ceramics with light pouring through them blending the interior and exterior as designs from all sides collide. Manz even describes her specialism as ‘thin things and cylinders’. This dynamic interplay between walls of the pot, or biscuit, utilises a highly intelligent consideration of space. Nothing is overworked, cluttered or too much but balance and harmony is preserved from whatever angle you view the work.

The use of block colour and design highlights the intrinsic qualities of porcelain. The clean lines suggest a weighty and substantial piece, yet as colour and design show through the walls it is evident that the biscuit is exceptionally thin.

The ethereal quality of colour and pattern shining through is underpinned by a highly technical and labour intensive process. Liquid porcelain is poured into a plaster mould and immediately poured out again, leaving a thin layer on the sides and bottom of the mould. When the cylinder leaves the mould after drying it is fired at 900 degrees centigrade, or bisque fired. What marks Manz from other ceramicists is she continues to fire the pot many times at extremely high temperatures. Each time it enters the kiln the work is put at risk and could be ruined.

Experimentations with Form

Focussing and concentrating on a single object such as a sphere, a square, a cylinder, a cup, fundamentally something quite ordinary, the stuff of everyday life, indeed almost banal. But during the process we discovered fresh aspects, and suddenly ‘the ordinary’ became a new experience.’ Richard and Bodil Manz

Progressing from her signature style, Manz created variations on the cylinder form experimenting with the profile of her pots. Her mastery of colour, space and design continues in these works. Whereas in her signature work it is the thinness of the biscuit that transforms the perception of colour and design, here the lines of the piece enhance the depth of colour and lead your eye around the piece.

Manz has cited many sources of inspiration in her work including Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, Japanese ceramicists Shoji Harmada and Soetsu Yanagi and ‘Father of British Studio Pottery’ Bernard Leach. This room explores a piece that takes direct inspiration from one of Denmark’s most successful modernist painters, Vilhelm Lundström (1893-1950). Credited with introducing French Cubism to Denmark, Lundström is famed for geometric still lifes and paintings of bottles, flasks and jugs all characterised by clean, crisp lines and few colours.

Future of Form

Bodil Manz continues the techniques and ideas explored in earlier work but experiments with new vessels. Her latest work departs from the familiar cylinder series whilst maintaining many common factors. Her work is consistently tied together with the radiant matt white base glaze, block colour and harmony between space and pattern.

The Stream Series was inspired by the lines created by a pile of books. Manz often creates works in series enabling an understanding of the development of her designs and ideas. In the Stream Series we can observe how Manz takes the initial inspiration and develops it with reference to the natural world through use of colour and line.

To create these pieces the artist builds the profile using wooden blocks instead of a plaster mould as used in other works. Liquid porcelain is poured into the shape and the excess liquid is removed with a sponge in a repetitive and laborious process. Manz is still making vessels but, through her inexhaustible supply of ideas, she is constantly evolving them.

Selected Biography

  • 1943 Born in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 1961-65 Attended the Arts and Crafts School in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 1962 Came to England to study in various workshops
  • 1966 Studied at Escuela de Diseno y Artesanias, Mexico City
  • 1966 Studied and worked at Berkeley University, USA
  • 1971 First solo exhibition at Maison de Danemark, Paris, France
  • 1978 Commission together with her husband Ceramicist, Richard Manz, to create a major decorative work for Farum Swimming Centre, Denmark
  • 1995 Solo exhibition at Garth Clark Gallery, New York, USA
  • 2001 Commission for The Danish Parliament, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2003 Solo exhibition at Gallerie Carla Koch, Amsterdam, Holland
  • 2006 Awarded the Grand Prize at The 4th World Ceramic Biennial, South Korea
  • 2006 Solo exhibition at The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh
  • 2008 Retrospective exhibition at the Danish Museum of Art and Design, Copenhagen, Denmark

Selected Public Collections

  • The Lakeland Arts Trust, Cumbria, England
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
  • The Danish Museum of Art & Design, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • The Danish Arts Foundation, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Musée de Sèvres, France
  • The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
  • The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Canada
  • Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USA
  • The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Texas, USA

Exhibition Supported by:

Arts Council England, South Lakeland District Council, The Charlotte Bonham-Carter Charitable Trust, Embassy of Denmark

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  • Photograph © Brahl Fotografi, Denmark