Amanda Fielding

Caroline Slotte: Going Blank Again – A Review

Presented by a prestigious fine art gallery, Going Blank Again occupied an intimate space that was highly conducive to the domestic scale of Caroline Slotte´s work. With a notable gap along one wall, 19 plates (15 to 26 cm in diameter) were displayed against a subtle shade of greyish-blue in a gently undulating thread that visually unified the individual elements. In the absence of captions and with exhibition title graphics banished to the bottom corner of a wall, there was nothing to distract the viewer from the serious business of looking.

It soon became evident that the spare feel of this room and Slotte´s fastidious approach to the placing of objects within it, strongly reflected the pared-down aesthetic and forensic attention to detail in the work on display. As we learn from Slotte´s texts[1], the room is a recurrent theme in her thinking, whether as a vivid childhood memory or as a metaphor for her research territory.

For this exhibition, Slotte presented works from two consecutive series: Unidentified View (2009) and Going Blank Again (2010), both of which she developed during her research fellowship in the Department of Specialised Art at Bergen National Academy of the Arts (2007-2011). These followed on from her Blue & White Landscape Multiple series (2008) in which she cut through found plates printed with Chinese landscape designs before stacking them to reveal a multi-layered image faintly reminiscent of certain kinds of theatrical scenery.

Whereas the remaining printed surface design was left intact in the Blue & White Landscape Multiple series, in subsequent work it became the primary site for the artist’s intervention and subject to varying degrees of reduction and erasure using rotary tools. In the Unidentified View series all that is left are the bare bones of the material and a tiny detail – house, bridge or fisherman – that Slotte has transformed into an exquisite, carved relief. Each crafted image is, poignantly, the final sliver of evidence that conjures up the memory of the plate’s original adornment. Equally affecting are the physical signs of the plate’s wear and tear over time, such as a hairline fracture, crackle pattern, chipped rim or misty brown staining caused by food acids.

Taking the process of effacement a final step further, in the series Going Blank Again, Slotte has erased every coloured surface and line that constitutes the printed image; only the whiteness in between the pictorial elements remains. Slotte is well aware that it is impossible to erase everything and that ”Some story or another will automatically become visible. The remaining white areas will reveal themselves as truly meaningful.” She questions the nature of the story: ”What will it be about? About emptiness, absence? Loss?” For me, the glacial white voids speak eloquently of the fugitive, the invisible and that which we cannot know or comprehend.

Published in Ceramics: Art and Perception No. 84, 2011

[1] See Caroline Slotte, Closer (Bergen: National Academy of the Arts 2010).