Playing with fire: Edmund de Waal og Axel Salto

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26 September 2024
– 2 March 2025
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For the first time, the British artist Edmund de Waal is presented in Norway. As curator and co-artist of the exhibition Playing with Fire, Edmund de Waal offers a unique presentation of his own works alongside those of the Danish ceramic legend Axel Salto at Kunstsilo.

The exhibition Playing with Fire: Edmund de Waal and Axel Salto is a result of an international collaboration between the English artist Edmund de Waal, Kunstsilo, and CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark. For the exhibition, Edmund de Waal creates an installation based on two significant Salto collections: the Tangen Collection and the Royal Copenhagen Collection at CLAY. In the installation, de Waal reflects on Salto's significance and the timelessness of the artworks.

Three ceramic vases
Axel Salto. Three vases in budding style . 1958, 1954, 1958. Stoneware. Various glazes. CLAY - The Royal Copenhagen Collection Foto by Ole Akhøj © Axel Salto/VISDA

Axel Salto (1889–1961) was a Danish ceramist and sculptor known for his organic and abstract forms. He started his career as an artist in the 1920s and became a central figure in Danish ceramics. Salto was inspired by the power of nature and metamorphoses - where something undergoes a transformation or change - and he developed a unique technique for creating glazed surfaces with intricate and powerful texture.

“Axel Salto is one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. He created a unique form of ceramic works that continue to fascinate me. The sculptures look like they are in the middle of a transformation. Glazes are captured at the melting point, vases swell up, as if they are about to burst”

- artist, curator, and author Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal is a British artist and author, known for his work with ceramics and his literary works, including the award-winning The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010). The artist de Waal is especially recognized for his subtle and delicate ceramic installations that have been exhibited worldwide. He often combines his artistry with a deep understanding of history and culture, and his works frequentlytend to reflect memories, heritage, and human connections.

Edmund de Waal in his studio.
Edmund de Waal in his studio in London. Photo by Tom Jamieson

“We are truly excited to introduce the British artist and author Edmund de Waal to a Norwegian audience. The exhibition shows a dialogue between de Waal and the Danish ceramic master Axel Salto. The conversation is conducted across time and space and is led by de Waal, who highlights both similarities and contrasts in each of their oeuvre. Common to both is the material they work with, clay, but also text”

- Curator Hanne Cecilie Gulstad

The encounter between Edmund de Waal and Axel Salto crosses time, and with de Waal as the curator, the goal is to bring out new aspects of Salto's art. Text and words play a central role in the exhibition, while Salto's less shown drawings, book illustrations, wallpapers, and graphics are displayed alongside his powerful ceramics.

The exhibition Playing with Fire: Edmund de Waal and Axel Salto is on display at Kunstsilo from 26th September 2024 to 2nd March 2025.

The exhibition has travelled from CLAY to Kunstsilo and will continue in 2025 to England and the art museum The Hepworth Wakefield in Yorkshire. In connection with the exhibition, a richly illustrated book will be launched by Forlaget Press. The book contains a new essay by Edmund de Waal, exploring the concept of metamorphosis and the fusion of words and clay. The book also includes an essay by curator and author Sanne Flyvbjerg, A singing world, a place of fire, as well as her conversation with Edmund de Waal in his studio in London; a conversation about pots, words, and journeys. Not least, the book contains several excerpts from Axel Salto's extensive authorship.


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