The beauty must be possible

Catalan potters Jordi Marcet (1949) and Rosa Vila-Abadal (1950) began their studies of ceramics at the Massana school and design studies at the Eina school. In 1967 they worked in the workshop of the potters Jordi Aguadé and Jordi Ancil. Later, they founded several workshops together with other ceramists: Am Terrissaires (1969), where the contemporanization of the forms and the technique of the popular Catalan ceramics work, and L’au Cal·ligràfica (1973), where they start work with stoneware. and the design of pieces of daily use. Since 1977, the two artists decide to set up the Quart Creixent workshop separately, where they will continue the work with the stoneware and the design of utilitarian pieces. It is from 1989, that Jordi Marcet and Rosa Vila-Abadal embark on their artistic careers as potters exposing their pieces in galleries and museums in Europe and in countries such as Brazil and Japan. The artists work their pieces with white stoneware at high temperature and with colors of their own making. Without abandoning the distinctive sign that characterizes their pieces, and which singles them out as artists, Jordi Marcet and Rosa Vila-Abadal have started a new creative stage that gives way to a more abstract contemporary reflection, bordering on the limit of the sculptural, but always remaining in the painstaking work of form and drawing, and never moving away from what shapes the essence of his work and defines them as artists: the ceramics.

I keep alive the memory of the first time I met Jordi Marcet and Rosa Vila-Abadal, and the sensations I had when contemplating his work for the first time. They were presented to me as “some artists who work with ceramics”. Then, at that time, I knew nothing about artistic ceramics. Well, I had a very vague and confused knowledge, only identified the potters as a people who worked with clay, craftsmen who made very beautiful pieces that one could then use. I recognized, intuitively, the value of those pieces molded by hand, carefully worked with the lathe, and nothing else. The memory and the sensation of that first encounter is so alive because from that moment I really knew ceramics, I learned to understand it and above all to love it. It has been hours, days and years of long talks with the artists, contemplating the day-to-day work, asking many questions, receiving multiple answers, learning and rediscovering the infinite possibilities of expression that are hidden behind the ceramics.
From the work of Jordi Marcet and Rosa Vila-Abadal, one is surprised at the strength of the drawing and the color of the pieces. It is the first impact. It is not very common to find potters who treat so profusely the pictorial part of the pottery, although in Catalonia, traditional pottery was already very painted. Both artists have always confessed that they dress their pieces with a second skin (a singular fact in ceramics, which tends to be very sculptural or material) and that far from appearing to be an addition to the form, a simple support, this skin covers the piece to get to fuse with the form and create a whole. This form-drawing communion has always been a distinctive sign in his work. Although the years pass, against any change resulting from evolution as artists, one will always recognize the work of Jordi Marcet and Rosa Vila-Abadal.

The skin envelops the form, which also surprises. Surprising that over the years, and after the constant evolution as artists, his pieces still maintain a certain ambiguity, often disconcerting, in what refers to the form. His pieces subtly trace a thin and invisible dividing line (always franchiseable) between sculpture and useful sense. A plate, a bowl, a bottle, an urn … when you look at each piece you can not help but wonder where in the line it is, and from here the ambiguity arises: sometimes we want to recreate ourselves only in the simple contemplation of the pottery, which we will see as a sculpture, sometimes we will have the impulsive desire to touch it and use it, because we will see reflected in it the daily life of a beautiful container. This sensation can only awaken one of the premises of the two artists: “A piece should be beautiful, but in turn possible”, and an exhaustive and refined work in the design of each piece, in which there is no place for improvisation, each one is thought, studied and discussed before doing it; Teamwork, complicity and artistic understanding leave no room for error or surprise.
And long before the color and the drawing there is the form, and in the form resides the matter, which is the beginning of all things. The two artists work with white stoneware at high temperature and without winch, making the pieces with molds that allows them more freedom in design and creation. Here lies the fact that, all his artistic work detaches subtlety, elegance, depuration in the forms and sobriety in the lines, moving each piece away from the rough treatment of the material to confer an “apparent” fragility. At the same time, as alchemists, they elaborate their own colors in an artisanal way with pigments and natural minerals. Color is an essential part of his work. These, often impossible, difficult to identify, always cover the piece with a very particular iconography. The geometric shapes, the animals, the man and a narrative tone present in almost all the pieces, become symbols transformed from the inner world of the artists, symbols that invite reflection, sometimes to the denunciation, to the awakening of the critical sense, to the humor, irony, complicity or tenderness. Throughout his work the leitmotiv has always been modernity, the century we live in, the now, always using a contemporary language, either to reinterpret other cultures and other times, either to show us the little things of each day or the uncertainty of the future. Currently, and as a logical consequence of the personal and artistic evolution, Jordi Marcet and Rosa Vila-Abadal, begin a new stage in their work with much more abstract pieces, with a marked sculptural appearance, more complex conceptually, but without abandoning the precepts that mark his career as artists and without abandoning his passion: ceramics.


Eva Rodríguez
Keramik Magazine Europa, R 3/2007