Tapio Wirkkala and his wife Rut Bryk were to Finnish midcentury ceramics what Alvar and Aino Aalto were to Finland’s furniture and architecture so how better to celebrate their 100th anniversary than with a year’s worth of celebrations. The latest of these, Rut Bryk – The Magic Box, features this key reformer of modern Finnish ceramic art and runs from May 12 to September 4, 2016 at EMMA, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Southern Finland. Although she dreamed of being an architect in her youth, Bryk, above, (1916 – 1999) spent over fifty years working in the Art Department at Finland’s famous Arabia porcelain factory where, having previously studied printmaking, she perfected new skills and became a master of ceramics. Her command of colours and glazes was staggering for someone previously untaught and yet she refused to call herself a ceramist. Preferring to be seen as an artist, she specialised in one-off reliefs, art plates, sculptures and installations and was often commissioned to create huge ceramic walls and commemorative pieces in her home country, the most famous of which include Helsinki’s Town Hall and the Mäntyniemi Presidential Residence. Early work shows her tinkering with a magical world of flowers, fairies and nature, with plaques that use intense colours and heavy glazes to give off a certain glow. She soon brought in elements taken from Byzantium, the early Renaissance, folk and constructivism but kept a strong narrative bent to her work. Later pieces move to the more textural and abstract.
You will see it all in this exhibition curated by Adjunct Professor Harri Kalha, PhD and designed by exhibition architect Linda Bergroth. A huge body of work, Rut Bryk – The Magic Box is divided into five sections charting the different stages of her career. Over 200 exhibits are featured and there is a multi-part installation dedicated to Rut Bryk by her daughter, the internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Maaria Wirkkala. After its run at EMMA, Rut Bryk – The Magic Box will tour the Art Museum of Oulu, also in Finland, from October 1, 2016, to January 15, 2017.
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