DURING 3 DAYS OF DESIGN 2021, THE AUDO IS UNVEILING A NEW EXHIBITION WITH DANISH ARTIST MALENE KNUDSEN. THE COLLABORATIVE COLLECTION TAKES INSPIRATION FROM THE AUDO’S NEW INTERIOR DESIGN CONCEPT AND EXPLORES THE NEW SHAPES AND COLOURS. IN CELEBRATION OF THE EXHIBITION, WE VISITED MALENE KNUDSEN’S COPENHAGEN STUDIO TO OBSERVE HER CREATIVE PROCESS AND DISCUSS THE INSPIRATION AND PHILOSOPHY BEHIND HER PRACTICE.
THE AUDO: COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU DISCOVERED YOUR WAY INTO ART?
Malene Knudsen: I always had a great fascination with art, design and architecture. I dreamed of becoming an architect, so I applied for admission to the Academy of Fine Arts' School of Architecture. During my studies, I found myself best suited to the school's wood and metal workshops, where I could experiment and immerse myself in materials and design. I am a detail-oriented person and love to work on the human scale where I can study and develop the smallest finesse. While I was interested in architecture, I missed the craft and using my hands to express myself visually. I longed to work with clay for quite some time before I started, so I bought a kiln and some clay and experimented with different techniques in my apartment. I fell in love with the raw material and quickly realized how much I enjoyed creating.
TA: HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE IN ARCHITECTURE IMPACT OR INSPIRE YOUR ART?
MK: I dreamed of making vases in clay, so that became my starting point when I created my first pieces. All I designed were vases, though I never thought of combining them with flowers or anything else. Without a doubt, design is my driving force. My art strives for form and hopes for beauty. The function is an additional element. That's just the way I think, which is clearly characterized by my architectural background. I am very visual but relatively minimal, and there is no room for many things around me, which places great expectations on the individual object. I value items that are beautiful on their own, but their value elevates if they have a function. Through the profession of an architect, I learned to embrace the creative process, which I clearly use in my artistic development. I learned to study and examine the material, form, detail, and to remain in the process for long enough to let something interesting emerge. I learned to see the immediate, and I understood that the result doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
TA: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PIECES?
MK: I work with contrasts between the soft organic form and the hard material so that my work appears masculine and feminine at the same time. I think the strength lies in the combination of shape, material and surface, which creates an interesting balance that makes the pieces my own. By using clay types with such inherently beautiful properties, I wanted to preserve the material's original characteristics and depth of surface, to achieve an exclusive look of high-quality craftsmanship.
TA: WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION?
MK: I find inspiration in unpredictable and organic forms, where each element has its own identity mark. As it is in the beautiful and ever-changing nature. I named my first vases after flowers, swans and shells, as for me it was a clear inspiration. But I love that they are viewed and experienced differently. Materials and surfaces are always of interest to me, and my archive is gradually growing.
TA: COULD YOU LET US IN ON YOUR WORK PROCESS?
MK: My development process starts with sketching. It is a natural part of my process to visualize my thoughts and ideas on paper, which quickly gives me an understanding of proportions and helps me to scale my pieces. My sketches are often quick brush strokes with watercolours that have an organic look. It reminds me to hold on to the unique and quirky if my hands suddenly seek the homogeneous. I shape my vases using an ancient coiling technique, building up each vase coil by coil and shaping it into the final form. I love the unpredictable nature of the process. For me, the best work emerges when I begin seeing beauty in imperfection.
TA: IN YOUR OPINION, WHY DO PEOPLE FIND SIMPLICITY SO APPEALING?
MK: Mies van der Rohe created an influential architectural style with an emphasis on extreme form of clarity and simplicity, that came to influence during the entire 20th century. An architectural style that could represent modern times, and that focuses on removing everything insignificant and giving space and attention to what is important. To see the beauty in simplicity. I think many people find this message appealing, where all the superfluous is cut off and some room is left for the calm that the simple expression can give them. I seek peace in my home where I recharge and find simplicity. Less is more, especially if you surround yourself with unique objects of quality materials that beautifully patinate over time.
TA: COULD YOU PLEASE DESCRIBE THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE COLLECTION?
MK: When I started my design process, I did not work consciously from a concept to avoid limiting my artistic development. But I quickly developed a language that I chose to explore and pursue, which resulted in several coherent works that suddenly formed the framework for my first collection. A line of 16 exclusive vases with refined details, each one different from the other, designed as sculptural pieces of art or for minimal floral arrangements. The five types of stoneware used in the collection naturally fire to warm tones of cream, sand, light brown, brown and black, and the only addition is the coarse-grained firesand and crushed bricks for a raw and textured finish. The roughness varies in the different types of stoneware for an individual expression.
TA: WHICH PART OF YOUR JOB DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING?
MK: I have had to adjust and teach myself to think more in a long-term perspective, and thrive on structure and planning, as this is one of the prerequisites for running a good business. As an artist, it is not part of my nature, and I am naturally my best living in the present with a great dose of freedom and flexibility. Fortunately, my diligence and structure benefit me, so that over time I can find the right balance.
TA: HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CREATE A SCULPTURE FROM THE INITIAL IDEA TO THE FINISHED ART PIECE?
MK: It is very different and clearly depends on what flow I am in. In addition, the scale has a lot to say, and then also there is the detailing of the work, both in terms of production and drying. Ideas are hard to control, so I visualize them when they present themselves. I often think long and hard about a piece before the design process starts, so I know what I want when I get started. I prefer to develop my works over a few weeks, so I get the opportunity to see them with new eyes over time. This is important, even though I quickly notice whether it works or not.
TA: HOW HAVE YOU APPROACHED YOUR WORK DURING CORONA, AND HOW HAS THIS TIME OF ISOLATION AND REFLECTION IMPACTED YOU?
MK: I got the opportunity to work more with ceramics, which before corona was just a hobby. Practising full time and seeing a development in my work was incredibly satisfying. The break from everyday life gave me the chance to spend all my time, and focus on building my artistic universe and developing my first collection of vases, which has been a unique opportunity and perfect chance to start working independently. I am a thoughtful person and I need space for contemplation.
TA: HOW DOES YOUR COLLECTION RELATE TO THE INTERIOR DESIGN CONCEPT OF THE AUDO?
MK: I think my vases draw influence from certain great French modern ceramicists as well as Scandinavia, with their warm neutral colours and organic forms and structure. Each vase has its own expression and, in my opinion, it will complement both modern and classic decors at the Audo.
Malene Knudsen’s works are for sale in-store with a selection available online.