Publication: Ceramic Review
The Scottish Gallery
It’s been some time since the majority of Bodil Manz’s elegant – if slightly clinical – slip-cast porcelain vessels had any practical application. Their delicacy, form and now their prices (they range from around £700 for a small hexagonal cylinder to over £7000 for a large sandcast jar) have ensured that are now firmly within the category of desirable, collectable ‘objects’ which seem to have more in common with abstract painting than functional ceramics. The score of prosaically- and functionally-titled vessels here (‘Large cylinder’, ‘Cylinder No. 1 with relief’ etc. etc. ) certainly is dependably in line with Manz’s output over recent years. There’s neither attempt nor need to group the work thematically – or, indeed, by any other category.
It’s clear that Manz’s work – expertly made, painstakingly honed – has a sizeable, appreciative following ; this modest show will have gone some way to satisfying aficionados and collectors (it’s the third at the current venue). There’s no doubting Manz’s characteristically Scandinavian sense of craftsmanship and design – a fact recognised in her native Denmark by a major retrospective in Copenhagen’s Kunstindustrimusem in 2008.
The lines of the work are pure and uncluttered, a characteristic matched by the bold rectilinear motifs – applied with decals – on the vessels’ external and internal surfaces. These shape are almost always complemented by a more tentative but related image on the obverse, made visible by the translucent nature of the wafer-thin porcelain. The tension between inner and outer is usually resolved by the vessel’s rim which Manz uses to great affect by emboldening with dark glaze.
These delicate, patterned surfaces are therefore three-dimensional paintings or, rather, two dimensional abstracts on a three dimensional surface. As such, they can, by definition, be observed from a multitude of perspectives – a fact which sets them apart from the vast majority of painting.
Less frequently Manz’s vessels become essays in colour as well as tonality; these splashes of vivacity are welcome and necessary punctuations of Nordic sang-froid; here they leavened the greyness on a northern summer day.
Incidentally, the decision to show these works alongside a few sparse, uncharacteristically sombre prints by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham was well-judged and emotionally adroit.