The Porcelain Room


The Porcelain Room – an organic world of ceramic sculptures, arranged and combined with carpets, textiles, shelving, sofas, chairs, tables and a tree root. Everything is built, burned and broken into compositions that fill the room. The works are placed in an interior that hints at imaginary rooms reflecting history, destruction and suffering in the world beyond the gallery.


I have made a series of miniature sarcophagi stuffed with fragments of body parts – that is, fragments from a world of toys, combined and crammed into or writhing inside and out of small casket-like forms. The sarcophagi are placed on a charred wooden shelf. Elsewhere in the room, a large round egg shape functions as a candelabrum. It makes no secret of its constructive principle and how it has been put together. It sits on the floor and holds black candles that are burned down every day. Another sculpture consists of porcelain sculls covered with scruffy, uneven white glaze; these are stacked on top of each other and placed on a fragile shelf. Organic sculptures such as Rødglasert porselenskveil (Red-Glazed Porcelain Coil), En tung hul form i svart steingodsleire (A Heavy Hollow Form in Black Stoneware) and Form som omslutter seg selv (Form that Encircles Itself) stand on each their own small fragile table. These works are treated with reduction glazes that result in strong colours. The walls in the innermost gallery space are painted a flesh colour and mounted with a series of sculptures entitled Veggforbindelser (Wall Connections). The largest sculpture in the exhibition is covered with black glaze: it lies like a body on a bed, the outer covering of which has been removed so that the sculpture lies directly on mattress stuffing.


On a tree root I have mounted several shelves: these are occupied by organic porcelain sculptures. The tree root was partly burned when I found it, but I finished the process. On a Rococo chair – I also burned this and tore its outer upholstery – there is a large ceramic vessel dripping with glazes. The tree root and the chair stand on a soft carpet made of wool and silk. I have also made a large white porcelain egg encased in a black organic form. You can see the egg with a stripe of turquois glaze running down one side, but it cannot be removed from its casing; a grill keeps it captive inside the black hollow form. The sculpture sits on the uppermost shelf of a rickety old flower table. On the lowest shelf is a long recumbent organic form with dark porcelain flowers and butterflies glaze-glued into it. Several large vessels stand on the floor and by the entryway. Out from one of these, there emerge black ceramic clumps covered with white craquelure glaze. A tower of sorts stands on a Rococo table and looms large in the room. Entitled Porselensbindinger (Porcelain Bandages or Bindings), it is built from fragments of moulded parts, all combined into a construction that seems almost to burst apart. The diverse parts are actually unrecognisable on account of the composition. In the firing process, the tower of fragments, traces, remains and memories has become twisted and cracked. I used various celadon glazes on parts of its surface.


Watercolours I have made have been transferred and printed on silk. Entitled Sammenføyninger (Hinges or Clamps), these are mounted on a wall which visitors walk past, animating the silk to create varying three-dimensional shapes. Finally, Eggeveggen (The Egg Wall) consists of 242 moulded eggs painted with different glazes. These are mounted at the salient corner of two free-standing walls. No two eggs are alike.


In this exhibition I explore tensions between the grotesque and the beautiful – the good and the evil. But the black and the white mix together. Over the white porcelain are layers of colour in the form of glazes, pigments and lustres. The porcelain is no longer white and isolated but acts together with the rough black clay. The organic and bodily elements are important – both for the vessels and for the sculptures. My vessels (containers of a sort) are like petrified organisms – empty and hollow, as if representing a loss and longing. The loss, sorrow and sorrow’s physical pain are transferred to clay. I want to enter into the body and crawl under the material’s skin. I explore the tension between a bodily dissolution and a kind of gesamt (total) experience with historical and material references.


I need to create and be engrossed in the work process. The process is important, and I work until I stop thinking. I am just in it. I model, build, cast, search, find, re-build, tear apart and put together in new ways. I explore clay in all its forms – liquid, plastic, moulded and modelled. Wet and dry, soft and hard. I allow my hands to be wiser than my head, I allow my body to be involved in the decision making process. I am also often in doubt. I use different firings and glazes, firing things several times to achieve what I want with the surfaces. In the creation process, it is not simply that the work is in a physical space: it is also a separate mental room in its own right. A room I am in, which I make plans for, and in which I can think.


Irene Nordli

Translation by Arlyne Moi


“Irene Nordli’s porcelain figures, what can one say about them? They protest against history, they look like they want to wobble between the beautiful and the sinister, want to plunge into and out of shape. And if they want to explode expectations, which expectations do they aim to blow up? They will not tell. They want to be half-protest, half-generous gift. They want me to look at them but they refuse to satisfy my gaze.”

Tyra T. Tronstad