Horror Vacui at Trapholt

By Karen Grøn

A ticklish feeling of happiness and corporal delight rises as one walks through the rooms at Trapholt Art Museum where Morten Løbner Espersen exhibits his latest works from 2012. It is a very physical experience.

The vessel is Espersen’s canvas. It is on this canvas his art unfolds – a neutral base subject to a remarkable metamorphosis into the coloured surfaces of expressive textures that are the result of the artist’s intense work with the alchemy of the glaze. The works have been fired and fired again, and each time new connections occur in the kiln: the colossal strength of compounds that create the magnificent vessels that are both physically and mentally beyond the ceramic form. Espersen’s work is masterly: he has an unmistakable and strong artistic signature.

Over recent years Morten Løbner Espersen has abandoned his comfort zone and thrown himself into the deep water of the project Horror Vacui.

It is no coincidence that his title refers to the over-decorated style of 3,000 year-old Greek vases. This is precisely the genre under scrutiny here. Spend- ing years experimenting, Espersen has challenged the classical vase and thrown himself into the challenges of sculptural design. The result is a huge surprise. Like Axel Salto on acid, his ‘hyper sprouting’ style smashes the form of the vessels to smithereens, challenging it with an ornamentation in the clay itself entwined around classical forms. A drama where the archetype battles the twisting ornamentation. Both elements are the product of the clay’s natural material, but the clash between the strict form of the vessel and the savagery of the embellishment is a pivotal point reminiscent of the Midgard Serpent’s intense battle with civilisation. The ceramic challenges of Morten Løbner Espersen in these works are colossal. Because the vessels address both glaze and form: the artist makes the vessel itself the subject of debate, making every angle of contemplation a challenge. He can no longer refer to the neutral form of the vessel. The vessel has to function from every possible angle, and the number of failed experiments endured to create the sculptural polyphony so successful in the exhibition hardly bears contemplating.

His work with the glaze holds the vessels together: with virtuosity he allows them to be draped in a flood of different glazes, yet again demonstrating that he is one of Denmark’s most original ceramic artists.
(Horror Vacui, 2012)