Claudia Terstappen is known for her photography, but recently she has started working with ceramics as well. Although it’s hard to imagine any two more different mediums – photography is completely mediated, while ceramics is literally hands-on – the Melbourne and Barcelona-based artist moves between them with ease. “I choose my medium according to the ideas I have for work,” she explains. “It is the ideas that demand the medium rather than the other way around.”
Born in Germany, Terstappen has migrated more than once as well as spent extended periods of time on residencies. She has lived and worked in Germany, Britain, Spain, the US, Australia and China. “Being away from a familiar environment is both fascinating and challenging,” she says. The impact of changing locations reverberates through her work. When she first came to Australia in 2002, she became hyperaware of the fragility of the natural environment. It was while on residency in Hong Kong in 2015, exposed to both a thriving megalopolis and ancient history, that she became interested in ceramics.
Both of these concerns can be found in her solo show Form and Memory. Terstappen’s Tree, 2019, is a branch-like ceramic form with a charcoal-grey glaze. Hanging from the wall, segmented and inverted, it acts like a memento mori – a reminder that devastation of forests, through both fire and clearing, is a blow to us all. Elsewhere, Terstappen’s brightly coloured geometric ceramic sculptures take their cues from Hong Kong’s urban scenes, but these too, the artist hopes, point to our entwinement with the natural world. “Set between the visible and the imaginary,” she says, “I want the works to create tensions between organisms and abstract forms, remaining open to an infinite net of relationships between culture and nature.”
This article was originally published in the November/December 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.