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#ceramics#folklore#Malene Hartmann Rasmussen#sculpture

Folkloric Figures Emerge in Malene Hartmann Rasmussen’s Shapeshifting Ceramics

October 30, 2023

Kate Mothes

A ceramic sculpture of twenty snakes woven together like a basket weave.

“Viper Weave #8” (2023). Photos by Sylvain Deleu. All images © Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, shared with permission

“Folklore relating to Scandinavia is a great inspiration and something I have grown up with during my childhood and adolescence in my native Denmark,” says Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, whose enigmatic ceramics draw from personal memories, nostalgia, and ancient customs. “Harvest rituals such as the tradition of making corn dollies, at Christmas-time when you have to make sure the gnomes are happy and well-fed, the Lucia processions we did every year in school, Jule-bukken—the yule-goat—that was the more sinister predecessor of Santa Claus, and trolls of all sorts are all things I remember from my childhood.”

Rasmussen’s sculptures often shapeshift, at first glance appearing like a cluster of foliage, pinecones, or berries and on closer inspection revealing a troll’s bearded face. In “Treasure,” a basket brimming with colorful gems turns out to be woven of snakes, similar to the writhing “Viper Weave #8,” in which 20 squirming reptiles comprise the warp and weft. Other works depict creatures we associate with darkness or omens, such as spiders, with additional jewel-like embellishments and cheerful, pastel colors.

A slew of ceramic spiders photographed on a violet background.

“Spiders” (2021)

In “The Tired Lioness,” Rasmussen pulls inspiration from a precious family album, particularly a page where her mother captioned one image, “The tired mom.” The artist says the people photographed “look a bit off. So I dedicated my ‘Lioness’ to my mom and all the other tired moms and dysfunctional families out there.”

Rasmussen has long been intrigued by hybrid creatures, including the human-plant comic book character Swamp Thing, and historic books and illustrations, like Swedish artist John Bauer’s In the Troll Woods, which her grandmother gave her. “I loved the book and still do and have used it as a starting point in many artworks and installations throughout the years,” she says. “I see the trolls as nature spirits relating to the idea of animism, that not only man but every plant, stone, and river has a soul and is part of something bigger.”

Find more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

A ceramic sculpture of leaves and flowers that looks like a face.

“Troll #8” (2017)

A ceramic sculpture of a tired lioness.

“The Tired Lioness” (2022)

A ceramic sculpture of a helmet with horns, with snakes and flames.

“Snake Helmet” (2020)

Two ceramic sculptures shaped like crowns, referencing corn dollies.

“Corn Dolly Crown #3” and “Corn Dolly Crown #4” (2020)

A ceramic sculpture of a basket holding colorful gems. The basket is woven from snakes.

“Treasure” (2019)

An installation of small ceramic lilies and lily pads with a toad.

“Nøkke-rosen” (2018)

Four colorful ceramic spiders photographed on a teal background.

“Spiders” (2021)

A ceramic sculpture of snakes woven into a mat. Photographed on a black background with hands reaching for it.

“Viper Weave #8” (2023)

#ceramics#folklore#Malene Hartmann Rasmussen#sculpture

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