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Paula Bastiaansen: catchers of light become containers of light become a centre of light.


The objects, the 'bowls' of Paula Bastiaansen are catchers of light. Look how the light shines through the thin porcelain. And as I say bowls, this is only to indicate their origin. They are not bowls. They come from the concept of a bowl, are developed in a bowl form but they are space objects.

The thin porcelain starts from a centre and stretches out in the space, conquers space, gives space a new meaning, a new load and emotion. It is there, it is made of porcelain, the material is very earthbound, but it conquers the space, overtakes gravity and materiality and plays a delightful game with the light and is light in itself in a practical way of which one should be aware.


Once the gallerist of Bastiaansen, Carla Koch was very surprised when a woman who had enthusiastically bought a Bastiaansen piece, sadly returned a few hours later. While standing in front of her door, getting the keys to open that door, she had put the box on the ground. Suddenly a wind took the box in the sky and left her with a thousand pieces. Although these pieces were also beautiful, she wanted a new object and happily bought another one. So be on guard. But also do not be too worried. Bastiaansen has sent her work all over the world and has designed special boxes so that they arrive in one piece.

Besides that practical lightness there is a lightness that enlightens. The objects invite you to meditate on and with them. The forms stretch out in space; with straight or enveloped lines catching your eye. Some lines can be followed, others are suddenly overtaken by another line, opening the eye for yet another space.

The forms are meditative, contemplative and peaceful. How they catch the light, and how the light shines through them.

In 2007 I was in the studio of Bastiaansen. She had just finished a series of light containers which were in different sizes and made from paper thin white porcelain, translucent enough to show the light of a candle. The candle made them containers of light.

In 2008 I was there again to look at the latest developments. Some months before I had seen the start of the new series of space objects. I was already thrilled but sitting there in the quiet studio where she had made a small exhibition of her latest work, the sun shone through the thin porcelain pieces which stood in front of a window. I was again surprised and overwhelmed.


In the earlier work there was a centre and now the space itself became the centre. Is space the right word or should I call it the void, the emptiness, the light, the cosmos?

Strokes of very thin porcelain whirl and curl around this space. They give the feeling of waves that come and go, sometimes large, sometimes breaking on rocks or on sandy beaches. These strokes curl in their own limited space instead of curling in the eternal space. These strokes end in almost nothing, sharp pins, the end of the material.

Bastiaansen makes them in white, in black and white and in white with colour fragments that have their own movement. There is no front or back side, not a clear left or right side, making the pieces difficult to describe in tangible terms.

And yet they are strong in their fragility with a strong presence in their never-ending movement. In these objects there is a balance between harmony and disharmony, between peace and restlessness, between clearness and chaos. They are weightless and intangible. The only thing I am sure of is that they exist. You cannot say that there is movement expressed by form or form which expresses movement. It is movement itself.


What is also intriguing is what happens with the black and white pieces. Combining strokes of these two opposites borders on becoming a graphic element or decoration. With the new forms, it moves the form forward and backward, making the effect of being there or not being there even stronger.

And with the coloured pieces, there are strokes of blues, chartreuse green, cobalt, where I am dazzled by the extra movement in and from the form. It seems impossible that the movement of the forms is not disturbed by the colour when these colour strokes seem to be moving against the form. I stay puzzled, even if I take a break and return to the studio with a clear head to try once more to get some grip on what is happening with and through these objects. Then again I feel that I am in Wonderland. All 360 degrees lead me around to see a new reality.


Marja van Hassel has successfully documented the work of Paula Bastiaansen for years but they are difficult to capture in a photo. It is as difficult as attempting to document an installation in a room where the room is part of the installation.

At the end of the day there was an unbelievable sunset with all colours of blue and purple and orange, yellow and pink. With different forms and layers of clouds, with movements from horizontal to diagonal through each other. No organisation, no centre, a feast for the eye both outside in the sky and inside in the studio. It was a memorable end of a memorable day.

Loes van den Putte is a sculptor and professor at the Rietveld-Academy, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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Title Annotation:porcelain artist
Author:van den Putte, Loes
Publication:Ceramics Art & Perception
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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