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'Carrying Memory': Irja Bodén in conversation for "Fractured Light"

Artist and Amos Eno Gallery member Irja Bodén joined us in conversation to explain more about the origin points of her work on view March 18-April 18, 2021 in "Fractured Light," including inspiration such as memory and dreams, and how she makes the intangible tangible in her ceramic practice. The exhibition is visible in full at Amos Eno Gallery (56 Bogart St in Brooklyn) Thursday-Sun from 12-6 pm and on Artsy.

Amos Eno Gallery: You use stacking as a method when creating your ceramic artwork on view in "Fractured Light" at Amos Eno Gallery through April 18, 2021. Can you tell us more about why stacking is important to your process?

Irja Bodén: In 2018, I started this project: stacking my works as a way to explore forms, color, and texture. To work with stacking objects is an intuitive way of working that fits me well, as it offers flexibility and surprises. My process starts on the wheel, where I make a lot of forms as a way of sketching. After the parts are glazed is when I play with my forms by stacking them. I see it as a process of collage: I put something together and step away from it, come back and maybe add or subtract a piece. I'm looking for something familiar and, yet, unexpected. It also has to have some beauty. And this method of stacking more truly expresses time, which is usually represented horizontally, but it really is a vertical thing: our experiences lie on top of earlier ones.

Amos Eno Gallery: Certain series on view, such as "Conveyance", you've noted express a sense of loss. What themes informed this series and how do the compositions of these (3) artworks show loss and other similar themes in the final artwork(s)?

Irja Bodén: This series commemorates memories or dreams: these are both fragile, like ceramics, and they never last; instead, they just end up as shards of something that was once complete. In this way, these works reveal the decay of structures that only seem to be fixed, as when they’re broken, they are ignored and forgotten. We all carry memories with us, either as an object or a story we heard, or something we experienced in life. Objects, memories, feelings that we carry with us: even if they break in transit, we still should love them.

Detail image, "Phantom Vessel 7" included in "Fractured Light" solo show featuring new works by Irja Bodén. Image courtesy the artist.

Amos Eno Gallery: How did you come up with the idea of the "Symposium" array of small ceramics? Can you tell us about the process behind how these were created and how you approached this series of small ceramic artworks?

Irja Bodén: This series was an attempt to try making my work smaller, to fit in one's hand. They were all thrown "off the hump". I have been trying my hand at alternative firing techniques, and this one is called Obvara. I made a fermented brew, containing flour, yeast, sugar, then it sits (with this mixture) for a couple of days. I use a homemade raku kiln that I have behind my studio. When they reach the right temperature I take them out with a tong and dip them in the brew. It smells like baked bread, I like them to be a bit on the darker side. After I made them, and even though they’re all quite different, they quite seemed to me to belong together, like convention attendees (hence the "Symposium").

Amos Eno Gallery: Your ceramic artworks on view in "Fractured Light" hint at the layers that art can hold, or even the multiple layers we all hold within ourselves. Can you tell us how you create this multi-layered the effect in your process?

Irja Bodén I have used a variety of ways to dress my ceramic sculptures; slip, glaze, fake gold, pearls and, if a piece breaks, I still try to find the challenge in using it. Nothing is perfect, and everything has what we’re taught to call “imperfections.” I use multiple firings in my work and additional materials that seem to fit, to include mica from the mine in my hometown. It's not until the forms are glazed that I start to assemble the works, and at that point I’ll have a variety of forms, colors, and textures.

Above: installation image, "Symposium" (2020-21) Installation of (11) ceramic works, followed by detail shot, at Amos Eno Gallery for "Fractured Light." Images courtesy the gallery and the artist.

Amos Eno Gallery: Finally, you've recently won a grant and had your work shown in CT. Can you tell us more about highlights you are experiencing with your studio practice in 2021?

Irja Bodén: Yes, I recently showed work at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art in New Haven, CT. I was also awarded the a Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation award, and I will use these funds toward an installation project which will combines ceramic, video, and images. For many years, I worked at a university as their digital image curator, and working with images has always been exciting for me. My parents always had a camera with them on all our family trips, and some years ago I inherited their slide collection. My goal is to have the installation project completed this year and then to find the right place to show it.

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