Artist's Statement: Sixteen Danish ceramicists in a home and living work of art in Brighton

By Ben Miller | 01 May 2014

Artist’s Statement: Kay Aplin on the 16 Danish artists visiting her Ceramic House for this year’s Artists’ Open House festival in Brighton

A photo of a woman in a blue dress sitting in a bath tub
© Courtesy The Ceramic House
“The house is a home, a gallery and a living work of art. I have treated it as a public art commission, which is what I’ve specialised in for 20 years.

When I moved here and found out about Open Houses, I realised it was an opportunity to show my work in the context of space, which is how it needs to be seen.

I started cladding the walls with art, and it’s grown and got more and more ambitious.

A photo of a set of white ceramics
Sixteen Danish artists show their work at the House this May© Courtesy The Ceramic House
I make three-dimensional sculptures, seating, installations for parks…but essentially every surface I work with tends to be clad with ceramics, whether curved or flat.

The first room was the bathroom. When I looked in my cupboard I had all these tiles.

They were very eccentric green and light blue ones. It’s a jaw-dropping one, with lots of windows.

I opened the house to the public for the first time in 2011. Since then I’ve clad nearly every surface in the house.

I’m doing the other bathroom right now, for this year’s festival. That’s Portuguese style, with vintage tiles.

It’s actually a work in progress, because there are only so many tiles I can bring back from there in a suitcase.

I’ve got to do the front pathway and the main entrance from the street, at which point, all of a sudden, people will know what’s going on, because at the moment it just looks like an ordinary terraced house from the front. At some point – who knows when? – I will do that.

A photo of a piece of floral ceramic hanging on the wall of a grand town house
Aplin's work at Regency Town House© Matthew Andrews
It’s a bit of a Tardis, with four floors and a garage. People always comment on that. Outside in the garden I’ve got two huge reliefs – one covers the whole side of the house, another one carries the whole side of the garage.

The one on the house is a recreation of a public art project I did for a small town in Wales. It’s green in colour with a floral theme.

Each tile is very chunky, so the weight must be phenomenal. You keep looking up and up until you get to the top of the house. My neighbours apparently bought their house because of the view.

The garage one is pink and yellow, very bright colours – it looks like a patchwork quilt. Those were left over from another commission in Wales again, in 2009, which was the biggest thing I’ve ever made and needed about 2,000 tiles.

The rest of the garden is all tiled with these different levels. It’s like a mini-wonderland. The steps lead up to a work made of great big ceramic pieces that were rejects from a water feature I did for a hospital in Bristol.

It was like an egg shape. I’ve been curving them around for years. I can’t bear to get rid of stuff like that.

I can just be sitting in the bath or something and I’ll suddenly come up with an idea. It is sort of an obsession. At any moment you might get a bit of inspiration.

I’ve had a relationship with artists in Denmark since 1997, and last summer I went over for a residency at the International Ceramic Research Centre.

The works are really ambitious. For the first time in about 19 years I didn’t have a client or any pressure.

I started working in porcelain, developed a new way of working in clay and I found an amazing way of wood-firing which takes 30 hours. Then I found out I had been chosen for Open Houses and went into overdrive.

I’ve made this huge wall installation for Regency Town House; it took two days to install. The House is an incredible place. I was in there for two days alone, it was such a privilege. I designed my work to fit the space.

One of the Danish artists, Christin Johansson, has been here since Monday. She’s going to turn the basement into a performance space for the opening.

It’s a ceremony as part of a grant she got from the Danish Arts Council. It’s a 15-minute performance for one person, with two others observing.

She goes through a sequence of actions, giving them things and offering them things. They’ll have to put on white, and everything is white. She’s been wearing white throughout the project, which has been going for two months.

It’s very unusual to have a showcase of Danish ceramics – I can’t think of another one. Only one of the 16 artists in the exhibition is based in London. The rest are based in Denmark.

Some of the artists are in the house now. They’re loving the wonderland and having a look around Brighton.

The art they’ve got here is fabulous. The standard of it is amazing.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of a work of ceramics against a light yellow wall
© Matthew Andrews
A photo of two heart-shaped pieces of light brown ceramic on a shiny black surface
© Malene Hartman Rasmussen
A photo of a house where many of the outside walls are made of ceramics above a garden
© Courtesy The Ceramic House
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