Malene Hartmann Rasmussen: In the Dead of the Night
Jerwood Makers Open 2015
Venues: Jerwood Space, London (2015),
Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth (2015),
Touchstones, Rochdale (2015),
Ruthin Crafts Centre, Ruthin (2015),
Jessica Carlisle, London (2016)
By SUSIE PENTELOW, SEPT. 2016
In encountering Malene Hartmann Rasmussen’s mixed-media ceramic installation In the Dead of the Night, it’s hard to resist exploring. The installation brings together ceramic, neon and photographic prints. It is immersive and surreal: part-dream, part-fairytale.
The work came about as a result of a Jerwood Makers Open award, which was presented to the artist in 2015. “My proposal for the show was to make an installation the viewer could enter and walk around in. I wanted the viewer to feel like they were walking around in a dream. I’ve done installations in the past where I planned every minute detail before starting. This time, I kept the idea quite open.”
At first glance, Rasmussen’s ceramic flora and fauna are sweet — a tiny mouse perches on a rope ladder, while flowers and toadstools cluster around the base of trees. But the longer one spends within the work, the more unsettling details the viewer stumbles upon — like the mysterious key hanging on the wall, illuminated by a spotlight, and the jagged edges of ceramics eggs that have cracked open, their hatchlings vanished. Scratch the surface of these works and you find a playful darkness that hints at stories untold.
“Mystery is the essence of my work. The mystery of the dreams we have at night or the airy poetry of fleeting daydreams. In my work past and present, fact and fiction are merged into one in a somewhat eerie witches brew. I try to make an escape from everyday life, an invitation into the bizarre phantasmagoria of my imagination. I basically try to recreate my mind's eye.”
The forest — as depicted in European folklore and fairy tales — fascinates Rasmussen. Like her work, it carries dual connotations: by night a dark retreat for Pagan rituals and hidden beasts, by day a romanticized haven for white magic and woodland creatures.
“The idea of animism is a central core in my work, the idea that beneath the surface of everything there is something hidden. That every entity is spirited and even a tiny plant in another world somewhere can take center stage. I am very interested in paganism and mythological creatures, their origin and magic powers. Recently I read a book on unicorns. I kept thinking that out of all the mythological creatures, the unicorn could have been real. You find unicorn-like creatures in so many different cultures like the Chinese K’i-lin, but I guess the fact that it seems so likely just adds to the mystery and gives me another reason to daydream about them.”
The installation was initially shown at the Jerwood Space in London, before touring around the country with stops at Plymouth College of Art, Ruthin Crafts Centre, Touchstones in Rochdale and Jessica Carlisle in London. With the tour finished, Rasmussen is as busy as ever. She is currently in residence at Guldagergaard, a ceramic art centre in Denmark, developing a body of work inspired by Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The project will be two years in the making, with Rasmussen returning to Denmark next summer before an exhibition tour from Autumn 2017, which means UK viewers can look forward to seeing the artist take on Carroll’s phantasmal dreamland in the near future. WM
Susie Pentelow (b. 1991, UK) is an artist and writer based in London, UK. She studied at Goldsmiths College (UK), The Siena Art Institute (IT) and Camberwell College of Arts (UK). She exhibits internationally alongside running and editing her online arts publication, Traction Magazine.view all articles from this author