Belgian ceramicist Jos Devriendt recently staged his debut New York solo exhibition at Demisch Danant gallery, a survey of his 20-something years of exploration into what he calls ‘functional sculptures’. The show took in 90 uniquely handcrafted porcelain lamps, vessels and other objects.

The most striking pieces, part of an ongoing series, Night and Day, were a collection of mushroom-shaped lamps. Their shapes, he says, are a concept that came about over time. ‘People who are interested in sculptures don’t make a point of looking at them at night, but I think it is important because you only have ten hours’ light and the rest is darkness. It’s not just about giving light, but about the idea that a sculpture can also have a life at night.’

During the day, each of the porcelain lamps is ‘lit’ by sunlight that filters through the delicate material; at night, when the electricity is switched on and the glow comes from within, the sculptures appear transformed. When the appropriate form is found, Devriendt then experiments with different colours. ‘Abstract painters use colours to give meaning to their work; I do this in a three-dimensional way,’ he says.

Devriendt in his Ghent studio with works in progress ahead of his most recent exhibition, in Brussels. Photography: Albrecht Fuchs

The Ostend-born artist initially studied painting but quickly switched to ceramics, at the LUCA School of Arts in Ghent. ‘It’s not like I had a plan to be a ceramic artist,’ says Devriendt, and he admits that it took him a while to get to creative grips with the potential of clay.

Two years ago, he began driving to his home town at the weekend, painting and documenting its ever-changing horizon. Using the subtle colours of the North Sea and the sky as they appeared in his paintings, he experimented with different ways of glazing to realise the concept on three-dimensional ceramic objects. The resulting collection, Space Horizon, presented by Brussels’ Pierre Marie Giraud gallery in February this year, comprises lamps and plates, each of which has a horizon line and mimics nature’s shifting palette.

‘The transparent luminaires add a new dimension to these horizons, as they look completely different in daytime compared with night-time, when the artificial light illuminates the glazed porcelain from within,’ says Devriendt. ‘I always start from the quality of light,’ he adds, and he finds that quality in places other people don’t look. Art, as well as design, he reflects, should ‘meld aesthetics, symbolism and a state of mind’.

As originally featured in the April 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*229)