Signature ceramics: Markus Karstieß’ performative porcelain

LEFT: The side view of a gorilla-shaped head made with shades of blue, green and brown ceramic, photographed against a white wall; RIGHT: The side view of a human-shaped head made with shades of white, blue and brown ceramic, photographed against a white wall
Markus Karstieß, a German sculptor, takes cues from 18th century vanitas painting and ancient art history for an exhibition at Bruce Haines Mayfair. Pictured left: Stoner (doom II), 2013. Right: Stoner (dunk III), 2013
(Image credit: Karstieß/ VG Bild-Kunst)

Humankind has been preoccupied with the transitoriness of life since the dawn of our creative consciousness – so much can be understood from our efforts to immortalise ourselves through art, from the pyramids to degenerating decay art, via 18th century vanitas paintings.

Markus Karstieß, a German sculptor, takes cues from the latter form of symbolism and ancient art history for an exhibition at Bruce Haines Mayfair.

On view are flowers placed in his capriciously textured, glazed ceramic The Doe Series vases. The blooms have slowly withered with time. 'In the dying and drying process most of the flowers get even more beautiful, some develop a mythical fragrance', Karstieß says. 'They get even more fragile, showing their value and nature. I feel this endangerment and fragility in my own body too.'

These are shown alongside casts of Neolithic ‘cup and ring’ marks found in Northumberland from 1500 to 4000 BC, in which concentric circles are impressed into stone surfaces as decorations connected to solstice rituals. Karstieß applies a rare lustre-glazing technique on these artefacts, a technique that, he says, 'allows precious metals like silver, bismuth and copper to appear on the surface by reducing the oxygen in the kiln with wood during the firing process'.

Karstieß is interested in these objects because they symbolise the future: he references the landscape art of Robert Smithson, another instance of the enigmatic power of man-made objects.

The work Studio Peel Off, however, seems like an isolated work among the others. 'It’s like a map that manifests my occupation of this poetic island', Karstieß says, movingly. 'By making the imprint of a floor, you have to press the whole weight of your body into every part of the work. The accumulation of energy is visible, the work is performative. I am the work.'

LEFT: Abstract sculpture made with ceramic in shades of blue and brown, photographed against a white background. RIGHT: Wall art featuring black frames and slate shaped sketch

Karstieß created Studio Peel Off III by forcing his whole body weight downwards on the ceramic to create a unique, imprint of the floor. Pictured left: Stoner (Sky II), 2015. Right: Studio Peel Off III, 2013

(Image credit: Karstieß/ VG Bild-Kunst)

LEFT: Carved black vase-like sculpture photographed against a white background; RIGHT: Wheat-like branches in a cylinder shaped vase, photographed against a black background

All of the flowers in the vases of the Doe Series are left to wither and shrivel, exaggerating the permanent quality of the vases against the transient nature of what’s inside them. Pictured left: Lavrence Doe, 2007. Right: Hannibal Doe, displaying an elegantly drooping white gladiolus, 2009

(Image credit: Karstieß/ VG Bild-Kunst)

LEFT: A silver abstractly sculpted object photographed against a white background; RIGHT: A vase-like scultpture with purple flowers, photographed against a white background

Pictured left: Morris Doe, 2010. Right: Orson Doe, displaying the purple-flowering butterfly-bush (Buddleja davidii), 2009

(Image credit: Karstieß/ VG Bild-Kunst)

INFORMATION

'Markus Karstieß' is on view from 18 November – 18 December. For more information, visit Bruce Haines Mayfair's website (opens in new tab)

Photography courtesy Karstieß/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2007–2015

ADDRESS

Bruce Haines Mayfair
33 Saint George Street
London, W1S 2FL

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