The work of the Danish ceramicist Morten Løbner Espersen (b.1965) is governed by two seemingly antithetical aspects, which are, in fact, two sides of the same coin or like the interior and exterior of a vessel. Indeed, his oeuvre revolves around one of the great sets of polar opposites in Western philosophy and aesthetics, whose names differ depending on the context: idea and thing, essence and appearance, concept and matter, spirit and flesh, the intelligible and the sensuous. As an object on the borderline between interiority and exteriority and idealised form and tangible object, the ceramic vessel presents itself as the subject par excellence for Espersen’s research.
This ceramicist extraordinaire celebrates the conflict between formal mastery and material autonomy in long, highly varied creative phases, daring to create an audacious balance between honed craftsmanship and experimental serendipity. He repeatedly, though not exclusively, returns to the almost irresistible shape of the seamlessly constructed cylinder: simple, sober geometry, as if it were ceramic conceptual art. But something occurs to the clay during the potentially accident-prone firing process, during which it is both clad and violated. This process, an inebriating, exhilarating absurdity, an uncontrollable excess, results in a sumptuous opulence of unique, inexplicable glazed matter. During the course of repeated firing processes for many individual layers, something unforeseeable happens: sometimes contrary to all the rules of teachable glazing techniques, and quite often flying in the face of the discerning taste of a fastidious connoisseur: conventional categories and notions are exploded, sophisticated aesthetic theories evaporate into hot air or are fused into a vesicular, frothy, coloured crust, a vitreous crème brûlée, sometimes matte, sometimes glossy.
If the Occident has all too eagerly favoured intelligibility, ideas, essence, concepts and spirit, Morten Løbner Espersen applies lavish amounts of flesh to his vessels, because it is the flesh that whets our appetites, and it’s the orgiastic glazing that transmutes his vessels into objects that appeal to the senses.