Gabriele Koch German, b. 1948

Works
Overview

'After an academic degree in Germany I trained in Ceramics at Goldsmiths College and established my studio in 1982 with the help of a Crafts Council Setting-up Grant. I have exhibited widely in the UK, continental Europe and America, most recently in China, and my work is represented worldwide in private and public collections notably the V& A, the Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam Museums in the UK, the Frankfurt Museum of Applied Arts, Germany, the Museum of Art and Design, New York, the Gardiner Museum, Toronto, and many more.

 

'Although I grew up in Germany my initial desire to work in clay was kindled in Spain when I spent a term in Zaragoza to study. Repeated visits to the interior had left a deep impression: an open desert- like landscape with simple horizon lines and strong earth colours from black to ochre to red. I also discovered the beauty of unglazed pottery, the surfaces enlivened by fire marks, and the strong sculptural forms of unglazed jugs, hints of Africa and early cultures. The contemporary work of Antoni Tapies and Eduardo Chillida left a deep impression.
Coming to Britain with its flourishing ceramics scene made the realization of my ambition to work with clay as a medium of expression more attainable. In the seventies the Leach tradition was still dominant, however I did not follow in his footsteps although I recognized his historical importance and shared his search for simplicity, restraint and beauty in a pot. Lucie Rie and Hans Coper with a modernist urban and sculptural approach offered another aspect of ceramics.

 

'There was perhaps a meeting of the ancient and the modern, the rural and the urban that led me to the making of simple forms, trying to integrate balance and tension, stillness and movement, expansion and the containment of volume, precision and spontaneity. My interest in the elemental quality of ceramics led me to explore unglazed, burnished, smoke fired work, investigating the direct interaction between fire and earth. Central to my work is the concept of the vessel, creating associations with sharing, ritual and celebration, reminders of our humanity, our history and connection with nature.

 

'I have now left smoke firing behind and my work has developed a more graphic language combining stoneware clay with porcelain. My original idea for this body of work came from looking at geological landscape and how different layers of sediment combine in rock formations. This led me to the idea of combining quite opposite materials like stoneware clay and porcelain. I became interested in the possibilities of linear patterns organizing the space of a three dimensional form exploring how the dynamics of the line can change the energy of a piece.

 

'All pieces are hand built. I am continuously experimenting with a variety of stoneware clays, exploring different textures and hue in colour. Once the form is nearly finished I apply very thin strips of porcelain, which I work deeply into the surface. This process can be quite violent and distorts the form, so the form has to be restored before I finish the rim.

 

'As it is impossible to keep the two materials apart during the working process, the porcelain has to be meticulously scraped clean of the dark smudges of the stoneware body before the firing. Sometimes the porcelain pattern is complemented by the application of porcelain slip. This is more transparent and slightly more chalky than the solid porcelain bands, even if it is thickly applied. So the surface quality of the slip is quite different from the solid porcelain areas.
On some pieces larger areas, or the whole area of the surface maybe covered with solid porcelain, which is then scraped back to reveal the body underneath. Some pieces have porcelain slip only applied over incised lines with the aim to explore various shades of grey. The final surface is often achieved by multiple firings to 1200C. All pieces are unglazed and celebrate the beauty of the natural materials, clay and porcelain.'

Biography

CHRONOLOGY

 

1948 Born in Loerrach, South Germany
1967-73 University of Heidelberg, Degree in English, History, Political Science.
Study and travels in Spain
1974-77 Camden Institute London,
1977-78 Postgraduate Certificate in Education, King's College, London
1979-81 University of London, Goldsmiths' College Diploma in Art & Design, Ceramics
1982 Crafts Council Setting-up Grant
1984 Crafts Council London Individual Grant
Prize Biennale Internationale de Ceramique d'Art, Vallauris, France
1987-98 Visiting lecturer at Farnham School of Art
1993 International Potters Festival, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
1997 Summer School, La Meridiana, Certaldo, Firenze, Italy
1998 Lecture tour and teaching, Israel, British Council
2003 - 2004 Visiting Lecturer Hastings College, St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
2009 Publication of Gabriele Koch Handbuilding and smoke firing by
Tony Birks, introduced by Sir David Attenborough
2011 Inaugural Rothschild Memorial Lecture: Gabriele Koch
Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, UK
2020 Research project with La Wayaka, Atacama Desert, Chile

 

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Museum of Art and Design, New York, USA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA
Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, USA
Mint Museum of Craft and Design, Charlotte, NC, USA
Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Sainsbury Collection - University of East Anglia, Norwich
Henry Rothschild Collection, York Art Gallery, York
Museum Bellerive, Zurich, Switzerland
Museum fuer Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Grassi Museum, Leipzig, Germany
Leeds City Art Gallery and Museum, Leeds
Shipley Art Gallery, Henry Rothschild Collection, Gateshead
Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe, Germany
Museum am Burghof, Loerrach, Germany
Sigrid Barrett Sammlung, Stadtmuseum Landshut, Germany
City Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
The British Academy, London
Volkshochschule Loerrach, Germany
Le Conseil General de l'Aube, France
Augustinermuseum, Freiburg, Germany
Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales
European Investment Bank, Luxembourg
Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley
Leeds Schools Loans Service, Leeds
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Museums
Wakefield Art Gallery, Wakefield
Contemporary Art Society, London
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The Keatley Trust, Birmingham
Lotte Reimers- Stiftung, Deidesheim, Germany
Sammlung Rudolf Strasser, Museen der Stadt Landshut, Germany
Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury
Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, Scotland
Cleveland Studio Pottery Collection, Middlesbrough
Bradford City Art Gallery, Bradford

Exhibitions