2017 Q&A Kazuko Todate with Torbjoern Kvasbo

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March 30. 2017

Torbjørn Kvasbø



Questions by the jury to the Grand Prize Winner at GICB2017, Korea:

Q&A Kazuko Todate with Torbjoern Kvasbo:




The idea of shaping with “tube” of your work as a unit is very unique.

Tubes are sometimes used as inorganic industrial parts in our human life. However, in this work, the shape with an empty structure like a tube looks somewhat like a human or as a living thing.

Some Japanese said that “human beings are a single tube.” This work is also organic, reminiscent of some sort of creatures.

What is the reason for adopting the shape of the tube?


My answer:

This is about how my art is tied to my existence and my belonging to the world:

”Everything fluid is transported through tubes. Tubes are in all sizes, from gigantic concrete tubes leading water from lakes down to the power stations turbines, to the smallest subtle capillary tube transporting the blood in bodies, —– to the navel string, to the throat and bowel and urethra, ——making the tube principle maybe the most fundamental condition of life.”

(Quotations from ”Om vinteren” by Karl Ove Knausgård)




The height of this work is 140 cm. Among the works of this competition, it is the work that becomes the largest size as one which was fired as one form.

It is a very large formability work,  color and texture are also very beautiful.

Do you always make these big pieces?

I think that it is necessary to devise a different way from making a small work.

What kind of ingenuity do you have?


My answer:

Do I always make these big pieces?

My educational background is applied art school, ceramic departement, in 1975-78. Almost everyone at that time learned about wheelwork and pottery, which was the main tradition and mostly the ceramic work done, exhibited and sold in Norway.  For most of the twentieth century, “applied art” was the catch-all-term for artists and designers with an interest in creating “more beautiful everyday objects”. In the 1970s, however, it was the term “craft artist” that won the day and that my generation of ceramicists identified with.

“I don’t like ceramics with a smooth surface, that has a “pretty” exterior”, I told a newspaper in 1978. Inherent in my desire not to aspire to the smooth and pretty lies an indirect critisism of an approach to ceramics that still was very much alive in the 1970s. Utility pottery still had a pivotal place, althoug a clear tendency was also emerging towards a freer and more expressive idiom. Norwegian craft is very far from Scandinavian Design aesthetics and arose in opposition to these ideals. We found inspiration in Norwegian folk culture. This made it possible for artists to emphasise where we came from and to highlight our own roots.

If you take a look at my webpage www.kvasbo.com under portfolio you will see how my work slowly changed over the years. The year 1985 I built my large anagama kiln, which allowed me to fire larger work, and I slowly moved from wheel-throwing to slab-building. Until then I had fired smaller kilns, build by myself,  1-1,5 m3 small chambers, and always fired with open flames and reduction:  with oil burners and traditional glazes, to saltglaze, then woodfire and saltglaze, and then finally just woodfire. At that time I needed a larger kiln because my firings got longer since I slowly experienced that time and temperature in the firing is of such impact and importance, and gave the final results I was looking for.

Bodily ceramics: ever since I started to do ceramic work I have expanded the size of the pieces to the limit of what I am capable to do. I am still experimenting with large formats: what is possible in the dialogue with my body and the space in which I work as the most important factors together with the clay I use.


What kind of ingenuity do I have?

Extruded pipes: Clay is pressed manually through a pipe template using a large, wall-mounted clay extruder. It is soft and plastic, and when I tear it off I shape it as I want it, straight from the extruder. The pipe module is modelled simply, roughly and quickly into a structure consisting of almost identical modules. The sense of timing through years and years of practice and repetition, trials and errors, constantly trying to do the right things at the right moment with the right plasticity of the clay.

As the pipes are hollow, large structures can be built without tensile difficulties and encountering breakage. When assembled into a large ornamental form, the pipes create different patterns and energies as they intertwine and twist in and out of each other. The structure is built directly on a large fireproof kiln plate that serves as a base during and after the firing. This remains integral to the work and makes it easier to handle large clay objects.  

Fired to a temperature in which the material becomes soft and starts to sag under its own weight, thereby freezing the impression of imminent collapse.


Craftsmanship and materials, hands, fingers and eyes, are playfully coordinated to generate meaningful visual reflections and new knowledge. The formations and surfaces that occur are often disturbing, ambiguous, immediate and overwhelming – both beautiful and repulsive.

All are combined to create a readable whole – the encounters, proportions and precision striking a perfect balance: like a killer punch to the solar plexus. The process remains a continuous dialogue between knowledge, practice and cruel critical reflection.

Questions to the Grand Prize winner by the Jury:

Tube Sculpture by Torbjoern Kvasbo was awarded the Grand Prize of the International Competition for its outstanding form and expressive artistry.  Despite the fact that Tube Sculpture is a work of ceramics made of terra cotta and glazed and fired in a kiln, the piece exemplifies contemporary ceramics moving beyond tradition.


The form and creative expressive artistry of this installation is imbued with multi-layered ambivalent aesthetics: organic and at the same time systematic and sensuous; structural and atypical and also contextual; impromptu and controllable; materialistic and spiritual.  On the basis of such aesthetics, this work expands the domains of both ceramics and fine art by blurring the boundaries between ceramic art and sculpture, and further fine art and design, and fine art and crafts.


The artist’s sensitivity towards cross-boundary and avoidance of dichotomous thinking is readily apparent in the theme of this piece: Tube.  These tubes are wrapped with an outer skin and are hollow to enable free flow, which is a metaphor of a lifeline of circulating blood and communication for me and others to connect.  Tubes themselves imply flow without bounds.  The artist generates positive, collective energy filled with warmth by piling layers of tubes upon each other in a rhythmic way as a cumulative mass rather than separating them as individual units.


Questions to the Grand Prize winner by the Jury

  1. Despite the fact that Tube Sculpture is ceramics made of terra cotta and glazed and fired in a kiln, the piece exemplifies contemporary ceramics moving beyond tradition.  Does this ceramics beyond ceramics in traditional respect reflect your philosophy about aesthetics, or is it a simple outcome of your work?


1.The title of your work, Tube, seems to suggest communication for me and others to connect, as well as a lifeline of circulating blood.  The feeling of warmth and energy coming off your work seems to have been drawn from your sense of such theme.  Such feeling seems to be accentuated by the use of yellowish semi-transparent glaze.  Tell us how you applied the glaze and the effects it created.


My answer:

Between clay and mind

‘For God’s sake, never get a regular job,’ my father said to me when I was a kid. He was an author and belonged to a generation that could never manage to live off their art. He wrote at night.

I belong to a generation where I can pursue my own ambitions and intentions without hesitation. I believe that the language of clay is one that offers endless opportunity. I constantly seek out forceful points of contact between material, technique and form, and through this create meanings that I can connect with. By adding, subtracting and knowing exactly when to stop, everything can be told and communicated through experience and knowledge of these materials and techniques.


I work in a material context. My background is deeply rooted in the Leach/Hamada tradition where the aesthetics of the material, the material based, the traces from hands and process, the value of hard work, do it yourself, be in control of the firing process  as a physical process and as an artistic tool, working as spontaneus and uncalculated as possible: is the language I have. My work is about play, struggle and dance: I fight, punch, massage, knead, roll, throw, press, stretch, stamp, with all my might. I never think of going beyond traditions or cross boundaries. My philosophy is my work, my aesthetics is created when I work, continuously from day to day following the needs of the clay and the processes involved: yesterday becomes today becomes tomorrow. I have been working on one ongoing project during my 40 years with clay: the taut bowstring between an explosion of power and vulnerability that is held at breaking point, in a continous dialogue between mind, body and clay.


The glaze:

I try to have all my forces to work in the same direction. That is: the generousity of the clay, the surfaces, the richness, the plasticity, all this I try to carry out in every aspect of the process. Glaze was very important in the 1970s when I started as ceramic art student, glaze calulation, all the experiments with the chemicals and minerals, the miracle I felt when able to develop my own glazes, qualified me over time to use glaze as language, the fluidness and deepness, its juice, to express energy, pregnancy, life. To look deep down into a glaze, all the details that eyes can not see but mind can read.

To get a clear background for the glazes to develop colours, the terracotta is covered with white slip, airbrushed, brushed or poured over when leather hard. The objects are then bisqued to a temperature as high as the clay and object can take. The glaze is applied thickly both by airbrush and brush, and often poured on top of the object direct from buckets, in several turns to get as thick layers as possible. I mix glue in to the glaze to prevent the glaze from peeling when drying. Glazes fired to a temperature where the glaze starts to melt and run and form deep watery surfaces, with drops and puddles. The glaze gets fluid and fuses with the clay. Exactly the same spirit as I work with the plasticity of the clay when making the pieces. The yellow glaze is fired to 800 C.


For more information about my work, please read “Torbjørn Kvasbø Ceramics – Between the Possible and the Impossible”, Arnoldsche Publishers ISBN 9 783897 903777 or check www.kvasbo.com