Exclusive Interview with Dutch Ceramist
has been a porcelain
artist for over two decades and is based in Holland. Early on in
his career, he worked in Germany as a designer for Rosenthal. He
is now an accomplished ceramist who has exhibited internationally
and has his own gallery in central Amsterdam. Jeroen is also well-known
for his pioneering work in the field of 'virtual
ceramics'. The following interview was conducted during
his recent visit to Australia, where he was Artist in Residence
at the Canberra School of Art.
You have been working extensively in the area of 'virtual
ceramics'. How do you explain this new emerging field to
Virtual Ceramics are exactly the same as any other intelligently
applied craft. If you use your craft with brains and feeling, it
will be about thoughts, ideas, love and style. Shapes have to do
with love -- touching form, shade, light etc. But in virtual ceramics
what you are doing is exactly the same -- in short this is craft
that is, but need not be. Of course this makes people insecure,
but craft is about looking, touching and feeling with your eyes
and emotions. I think that it is incredibly important to explore
new avenues in craft now. We already live in a world where images
are far more important than the object. Many people see works on
TV, in magazines and photos, ie. 2D representations, while they
will never see the real thing. So virtual ceramics asks the question:
do you still need the real thing?
How did your involvement with computer ceramics come about?
Curiosity, I think. I wanted to make pictures of my thoughts, which
was the major reason I started to get involved with computers. I
know that I have lots of different ideas in my head which are a
big blur -- many images and ideas that I can't control. They come
as they wish and I don't like that. I thought that with the help
of a graphical computer I would be able to make those pictures.
It didn't completely become true, but for a greater part it helped
me to explore a different craft.
You must have come across people who equated virtual ceramics with
CAD/CAM. What is your response to that?
The fun part is that I didn't begin with a CAD/CAM program, many years
ago. I stared with a software that was designed for animation. That
was to explore things with. At a certain point things emerged that
were interesting to show to others and I ended up working for a Korean
factory designing steel water kettles, which was quite interesting.
But the objects I make don't have anything to do with industry. My
virtual work consists of cups that float and vases that stand on a
single point. It's quite obvious that my virtual objects are not intended
as functional design. These are explorations of what is possible in
a different realm, being the world of the computer screen, which will
play an ever increasing, enourmous role in our lives in the near future.
So the more we live in cyberspace, the more we will need objects to
inhabit that space. If you look at 3D software, there are templates
for creating 3D scenes -- these images are badly designed, by programmers
with no visual skills. It is important to have virtual designers for
these virtual environments.
Some people have espoused the idea that we will witness a crafts
diaspora -- more and more crafts people leaving their chosen medium
for the computer terminal...
I think that's absolute bullocks. It is wonderful to have people
explore these notions, but basically it's the same thing that happened
with painting at the end of the 19th C, when photography came about.
They had to rethink their existence as painters. Now we as crafts
people are being confronted with a similar situation, which is computers
creating 3D objects, which are similar to photos. This new situation
asks new questions. It doesn't mean we would all work with digital
craft -- you can't sell these things and to eat you need a bowl.
You can't eat from a virtual bowl. So bits and bytes are wonderful
to visualise what you have been thinking about.
But you are already presenting you work in a different medium --
That's true. It's just like having images of your work in a magazine.
The advantage is that you can create hyperlinks which can improve
your exposure. But apart from that, it's just another medium for
promoting your work and ideas.
I'm also interested in hearing about your 'Reconstructions of the
Holy Grail'. Where did that idea come from? A particular fascination
with the Holy Grail?
It has to do with the fact that this is a myth of the western world,
that has similarities with myths in other cultures as well. It is
about a piece of earthenware or whatever that held the blood of
Christ and represents in a way all that is good in the world. I
try to show how people usually destroy that which is good, and we
keep on building and destroying, building and destroying. That is
what I make -- the title is more of a handle I give to people, with
which they can read the work, rather than a literal adaptation.
I don't try to make the Grail, because it never existed. I make
reconstructions of the remains of something that never existed,
which consists solely of a thought or idea -- just like virtual
ceramics. You 'remake' something that doesn't exist, but you are
talking about ideas and that is what my work is about, whether it
is tactile or virtual.
Many thanks to Jeroen Bechtold
for this interview.