Sigrid Espelien

Grounding with (blue)clay

Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Art and Craft deptartment

In the doctoral project Grounding with (blue) clay, I have worked on finding artistic processes and exercises that connect us more closely to (blue)clay in the landscape.[1]

In my ceramic art education, I learned how to control clay so I could reproduce the same ceramic object time and again. We had access to a range of imported types of clay that were packed in plastic bags with a perfect moist consistency, and with a firing range, shrinkage percentage and other ceramic properties printed onto the bag. My lack of physical knowledge about how clay always is connected to a geological history made me feel the need to work with clay in the landscapes where I live and work. This is to bodily relearn how clay already exists in the landscape as land, soil, place, and as a porous mass that changes with the seasons and weather. In the encounter between body(ies), place, and clay lies enormous potential that, for me, has been about connecting, belonging, and a way of learning.

What happens in the meeting between clay, landscape, and people, and what does it take for it to happen? What can clay in the landscape teach us?

[1]Blueclay, blåleire, is the clay we have in Norway; a young earthenware clay derived from the last ice age 10-15000 years ago when the glaciers melted and left this fine clay mineral as a sediment in the sea. This sediment has developed into a few different types of clays with different properties, hence the parentheses in the title of the project.

Sigrid Espelien (Gjøvik, 1984) is a process artist working with local clay as her medium and collaborator. She has a ceramic art degree from the Glass and Ceramics School in Bornholm in Denmark (2005-8) and an MFA from the ceramics department at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, USA (2010-12). Sigrid has been teaching at the Oslo National Academy of Art at the Art and Craft department (2017-2020). Moving back to Norway and to Oslo, after ten years abroad, she started working with the blueclay from underneath the city artistically, technically, and socio-politically.





Artistic Research Spring Forum 2024

3rd presentation

As a third-year fellow I would like to present the project as it is at this point and my plans for my final showing of the result that will be at Rom for Art and Architecture in Oslo in September 2024. I will talk about the dramatic changes in my artistic practice during these three and a half years, and how I take the consequence of that into my final work and reflection. Traditionally in the ceramic art field, the art has been seen as the glazed and fired ceramic object. For a long time, I have been a process and clay-oriented artist, but the way I was showing my work was still in a classical exhibition context with objects on pedestals in a white gallery room. During the project I have slowly, with a lot of help, changed the thinking around how I share and show my work and identified where the art in my practice lies. In the project I now recognize my main materials to be clay, landscape, and people. I still make clay and ceramic objects in my practice, which are very important to the process. They are a way of thinking, getting to know and connect to the clay, landscapes and people involved, and I see them as documentation of a process or tools to bring into the happening-based, site-specific, and participatory work.

Recognizing this has been the main challenge in my project. I will be focusing on clay-wanderings and grounding-exercises as my final artistic result and ceramic and clay objects as part of the documentation and reflection together with expositions on research catalogue. I would like to get feedback on how to address the shift in my practice into the final stage of the PhD. Entering these “new” fields, are there theories, art practices, references, or concepts that I should know about and address?