Different – that’s the single word describing how the Warsaw designer treats traditional porcelain. Her dishes, lamps and interior decorations, thanks to their originality, are gaining acclaim and popularity in Poland and abroad.
Different is to say the designer punctures and deforms her objects. She also gives them rough finishes. She creates variations on classic ceramic themes, which take on forms resembling children’s spinning tops in Giesche Stories from the series G-Tops (2011-2012), tea sets in Tea for One (1999) or deformed surfaces of cast shells in NonForms (2008-2009).
Patuszyńska (born 1973) questions the functions of everyday objects such as glasses or bowls, and employs unexpected juxtapositions of shapes. Sometimes her works constitute a riddle: What is this object used for? Unpredictability is what most inspires her in porcelain. She consciously avoids a fixed method of work – "I quickly became tired of repeatability", she says. Instead, she experiments constantly as she tries to achieve yet another new artistic effect: A saw, mallet, hammer, electric stapler, Scotch tape, they all come in handy, says Patuszyńska.
The designer has been described by Natasha Mayo, from the National Centre for Ceramics in Cardiff, as:
the exact opposite of a porcelain factory worker – she breaks plaster forms, she saws them into pieces. [...] She looks for stitches, edges and broken structures and creates dynamic and smooth shapes out of them. This resembles putting together non-matching elements of a jigsaw puzzle.
Patuszyńska sees porcelain as a material that is artistic, not practical. Her ceramic is proud, independent and beautiful. "Porcelain doesn’t surrender easily to the artist", she finds, "because it’s not a subservient or patient material. It has its own opinion. This pride is the most beautiful feature of porcelain". Thanks to this, the material may be used in countless ways.
Ceramics Differently is the international symposium organized in Wałbrzych since 1977. Patuszyńska is its leader since 2008. Each year in September leading designers from all over the world come to town. In the porcelain factories of Wałbrzych and Jedlina-Zdrój they create unique designs and share their experiences. The symposium ends with an exhibition of the newly created works, which is organized at the Ceramics and Glass Gallery in Wrocław. Patuszyńska says the artists have redefined the term ceramics. "Quite recently it was widely accepted that a ceramic work ought to be a figurine or a practical vessel", she says. "Now porcelain is yet another material, which an artist may use to express himself."
Wałbrzych is also important to Patuszyńska for other reasons. The porcelain traditions of the Lower Silesian region play a big part in her work. In one of her newest collections she refers to this legacy, though in a completely nontraditional way. Kristoff Series from the series TransForms Plus (2011) was created at the Porcelana Krzysztof factory in Wałbrzych. To make these works, the artist took elements from the firm’s oldest tea set, Fryderyka, and juxtaposed them with deformed, abstract casts. The porcelain objects from this series won the Prix de la Ville de Vallauris award at the 22nd International Biennale of Contemporary Ceramics in Vallauris, France, in the summer of 2012.
Patuszyńska first became fascinated with ceramics early in the 1990s. She lived in Denmark, where she attended a local high school. During a scholarship in Paris, she encountered casting – a technique that remains her favorite method of creation. When she returned to Poland she became a student of the Faculty of Ceramics and Glass of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, where she received her diploma in 1999. Since 2001, she has been running a ceramic studio in Milanówek near Warsaw.
At first she created traditionally, simply casting the plaster forms. That was how she created funny juxtapositions of tea-pots with cups for Tea for One, the coloured pots of Kowalsky (2001), the stands called OXY (2003) and sets of bowls (2005). Patuszyńska began to devote attention to the modification of the form prior to the cast. She turned to composing new wholes from fragments and pieces. That was when the stitches and edges that are a by-product of the casting technique became characteristic features of her projects, for instance in the coffee set from the series Ex-Forms (2007).
In her realisations, the artist concentrates on contrasts of textures, combining smooth and rough surfaces as well as homogenous and punctured elements. She usually uses light, neutral colours. That is why her projects retain a toned character despite having forms that are that are fanciful or often undefinable.
When asked to choose between the tags "artist"or "designer"she opts for the first without hesitation. She gets irritated when someone says that her punctured, fractured bowl from the series NonForms or the objects from the collection G-Tops aren’t functional. Practicality isn’t an issue in the case of works of art, so why should it be taken into account, when speaking of porcelain? In her work she is most interested by the preliminary, experimental phase, in which the form is designed. The final product that may be purchased is less of a concern to her. "I couldn’t responsibly call myself a designer because I’m don’t really care for the users, the consumers" she explains. "I’m much more interested in my relation with the material, the technology I apply, my technique."
Her latest realisations include experimental casts from the series QuasiForms (2009-2010), TransForms (2010-2011) and TransForms Plus (2011-2012). The objects from these collections look as if they were made from crumbled paper. They have become popular and were important in recent exhibitions of Patuszyńska’s works in Brussels at the prestigious Puls Contemporary Ceramics gallery (2011) and in London at the Royal College of Art during the Ceramic Art London 2012 showcase.
The artist is a member since 2009 of the Académie Internationale de la Céramique based in Geneva, and has won awards and distinctions at international ceramic competitions including the Mashiko International Pottery Contest in Japan (2000), the Taiwan Ceramics Biennale (2008) and at Simposio della Ceramica Contemporanea in Italy (2009). She has participated in Łódź Design Festival and in the exhibitions from the series Unpolished. Young Design from Poland (2010-2012).
The artist’s website includes a list of exhibitions, awards and distinctions: www.patuszynska.art.pl.
Website of the symposium Ceramics Differently: www.porcelanainaczej.fotolog.pl.
Author: Paulina Kucharska, March 2013
The text quotes fragments of interviews given by Monika Patuszyńska to Polish Radio’s Channel 4, the magazine Czas i Wnętrze and the newspaper Gazeta Wrocławska.