Nordic Craft Pavilion at the Révélations Fine Crafts Fair in Paris – BLOUIN ARTINFO


Owing to the relatively late industrialization of Nordic countries, Scandinavian crafts have remained more closely associated with design than in other regions. The values of traditional crafts – a direct relationship with natural materials, hand-crafted rather than mass-produced pieces, and a simple, down-to-the-bone approach to materials – are still highly appreciated in the sector. “It is very hard to summarize Nordic crafts, even though it is a small, culturally similar region,” says independent Norwegian curator Marianne Zamecznik. “Scandinavian design is more than just mid-century Modernism. But the Modernist period gave it a good heritage: high-quality institutions that offer excellent training and ensure, through scholarships, that artists have financial support to work with their craft, without having to bend to market forces. It allows them to develop their art.”

An interesting new exhibition at the Révélations Fine Crafts Fair in Paris promises to reveal the most cutting-edge new crafts products from Nordic countries. The Nordic Craft Pavilion, curated by Zamecznik in collaboration with five other independent curators, will present a selection of fine craft objects from across the Scandinavian region. The objects have been selected according to an innovative process based on the children’s game known as ‘Chinese whispers’, or ‘téléphone arabe’, in which a message is whispered from person to person: the delight of the game is in how much the message changes in transit, through mis-hearing and free association, and how new, exciting meanings emerge. In a game of whispers, a fine craft object was sent to a curator, who responded by selecting another object, which was then passed on to another curator. The final series, presented in an exhibition called Magic Language /// Game of Whispers has become a way to generate connections between the crafts, designers, curators, and craft institutions of the participating five countries, bringing into dialogue objects across architecture, jewelry, textile design, ceramics, graphics, and decorative arts. “Often, when presenting a region, a curator goes ‘shopping’ for exhibits, trying to piece together an easily understandable message about what is ‘Nordic’ today. That is a very superficial exercise which I have done too many times, and I wanted to invite other curators in, experts in crafts in their own countries,” explains Zamecznik. “Curating crafts requires a different approach to curating art exhibitions,” she adds. “Design and crafts have two layers of meaning: not only their form, but also function. We often forget to appreciate the materiality of things: what they feel like, how they are made.”

“Our selection was impossible to plan ahead,” notes Katarina Siltavuori, the Finnish curator, adding that they received no additional information about the objects they had to respond to, “not even the name of the artist.” As a result, the objects at Nordic Craft Pavilion form a delightful series of ‘Chinese whispers,’ each reflecting the one before and after. The selection features mainly young, cutting-edge designers, “It is a very strong representation of different craft fields.” says Anna Leoniak, the Icelandic curator. “The exhibits include the best craft objects created today in Iceland.”

Plethora by Deepa Panchamia

“Finnish contemporary craft is very much about the form – pure form – I’d even call it ‘quiet,’ not very complicated. Not very colorful, but simple, and very well made,” says Katarina Siltavuori. One of the objects Siltavuori chose was Plethora, a textile sculpture by British-Indian artist Deepa Panchamia, now based in Finland. A respected artist who specializes in handmade textiles, Panchamia consults for the Fashion and Textile Museum in London and lectures at universities across England. “Panchamia’s work is architectural, working with space, light and shadow. It is fascinating how she gets such strong sculptural, three-dimensional forms from textile. The piece, Plethora, is very representative of her work,” says Siltavuori.

Krysantemum by Marianne Nielsen

Marianne Nielsen is a young Copenhagen-based ceramist whose work combines playfulness with relentless research. Among her explorations are a series of detailed porcelain objects representing hair (locks, moustaches), plants (carrot, twig), mountains, yarn and doilies. The strange verisimilitude of her one-off ceramic works, which border on conceptual, has made her one of the most noteworthy ceramic artists in Denmark today. “There is an elegant precision to her work: her objects look like something you know – yet it is not a flower, but clearly an artificial object, Nielsen’s version of something ordinary. I find it fascinating,” says Danish curator Katrine Borup, who chose Nielsen’s Krysantemum in response to Panchamia’s Plethora. “Danish design is traditionally understood as very minimalistic, but the reality is more diverse. In crafts, in particular, working directly with the material, with one’s hands, is a particularly interesting concept,” Borup points out.

Scarab by OrriFinn Jewels

Orri Finnbogason and Helga Gvuðrún Friðriksdóttir, young jewelers working under the name OrriFinn Jewels, are instantly recognizable for their edgy, bold, unisex pieces. “Icelandic design is very daring, and simultaneously very simple,” says Anna Leoniak. “OrriFinn have recently become very well-known in the Icelandic jewelry scene. They are a breath of fresh air, representative of the slight darkness, scariness of the Icelandic craft traditions. Their work is not always pleasant: it can be a bit scary, especially their beetle jewels, which are more art objects than jewelry. I am a big fan of their work.” Leoniak chose the jeweled scarab by OrriFinn Jewels because the claw-like petals of the ceramic chrysanthemum work by Nielsen reminded her of an insect’s limbs. “The petals of the flowers looked like they were moving. The frozen motion of the flower spoke to me of the little limbs of the scarab. The ball that the scarab was pushing reminded me of the round form inside the chrysanthemum. There was something organic and inorganic about them both, something alive.”

Révélations Fine Crafts Fair runs from September 10 to 13 at the Grand Palais.