V&A announces Malene Hartmann Rasmussen as their V&A Danish Ceramics Resident

March 1, 2018
Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, In the Dead of Night (Jerwood Makers Open), 2015, ceramic, © Sylvain Deleu

We are delighted to announce our next ceramic resident Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, who will start her six month residency in April 2018. During her residency Rasmussen will have a series of Open Studios where you can immerse yourself in exquisitely crafted ceramic works inspired by mythological creatures and the hidden realms of the unconscious mind.

Creating immersive installations from clay and photographic print Malene Hartmann Rasmussen’s surreal twisted work is a deceitful echo of the real world. Comprising a number of elaborate fragments, Rasmussen creates a tableaux of visual excess through which she seeks to evoke an emotional response in the viewer and actuate their imagination. Rasmussen is interested in the human subconscious; she strives to create a hyper-real world that addresses this gap between perception and reality. Her ornate ceramics may initially appear excessively sweet but upon closer inspection reveal themselves as impossible and absurd objects, imbued with the artist’s own dark narrative.

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen Portrait with Troll, © Sylvain Deleu

Graduating from Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, School of Design, Bornholm and Royal College of Art in London she now lives and works in London. In addition to numerous exhibitions in the UK and Denmark, Malene Hartmann Rasmussen has exhibited extensively in European Ceramic Biennials such as British Ceramics Biennial, Faenza Prize and Biennale Internationale de Céramique de Vallauris. Personal artistic highlights include Jerwood Makers Open 2015, Collect Open 2017 and the recent exhibition C’est le Bouquet at Fondation Bernardaud in Limoges France.

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, Hearts, 2011-15, ceramics. © Sylvain Deleu

Since her graduation from Royal College of Art Rasmussen’s interest in Trompe l’oeil and the idea of incorporating obviously faux two-dimensional elements, into her sculptural installations have grown stronger and the work with how the dimensions intertwine and communicate, have become an important part of her practice. Utilising the idea of Trompe l’oeil, the technique of using realistic imagery to create an optical illusion, Rasmussen creates large scale scenic elements and repetitive patterns based on photographic interpretations of ceramic objects, these form the backbone of her immersive art installations. Nature and the forest is a vehicle for her ideas and stories. In her installations the forest is a metaphor for the hidden realms of the unconscious mind, a social construction that simultaneously embraces the sinister darkness in which the savage and beastly thrive, on the other hand the supernatural, romantic, and nostalgic world of the fairytale. Rasmussen’s oeuvre draw on the idea of the sentient nature and the origin of Animism in primitive cultures and is deeply inspired by Pagan Legends and mythological creatures connected to nature such as The Green Man, Wodewose and Trolls.

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, Troll #3, 2017, ceramic. © Sylvain Deleu

Contemporary fiction also have a place in her practice, where anthropomorphic characters such as Swamp Thing and King Kong feeds into the work. In recent years Rasmussen’s work has evolved around her Danish background. Digging down through the layers in history, creatures that were part of everyday life pre-Christian Scandinavia have emerged and the mythological folktales and stories about changelings and trolls play major roles in her installation “Troldeskoven” (In the Troll Wood) for Collect Open 2017 and the growing series of “Trolls”, all inspired by characters from childhood stories and folktales collected among Danish villagers in the 1800’s.

Craftsmanship is a crucial part of Rasmussen’s work approach and hours are spent perfecting the hand-modelling of the individual objects in order to achieve a spotless appearance. Rasmussen strives to create a hyper-real world that addresses this gap between perception and reality. Her ornate ceramics may initially appear excessively sweet but upon closer inspection reveal themselves as impossible and absurd objects, imbued with the artist’s own dark narrative.

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, Troll #3, 2017, ceramic. © Sylvain Deleu

During her residency at the V&A Rasmussen will respond to works by the 16th century French Potter Bernard Palissy and the later majolica-ware produced by factories and individual Potters around Europe. A kinship is formed in their common love for plants and animals and the exploration of ceramic still life scenes. Inspired by Palissy’s life-cast technique of lifting moulds from plants and dead animals and using the casts to create elaborate narrative scenes, Rasmussen will experiment with new methods of making using lost ceramic techniques picked up from objects in the collection and archives. Field studies will be done in the Museum and the National Art Library and inspired hereby Rasmussen will make ceramic interpretations of insects, animals and plants. In collaboration with her partner Photographer Sylvain Deleu, these objects are photographed and reworked digitally to form two-dimensional patterns and pictures as a form of ceramic photographic Trompe l’oeil then to be printed onto paper, digitally printed/woven fabric or ceramic tiles.

Bernard Palissy (1510 – 1590), France, Earthenware Dish with coloured glazes, 1565 – 85, V&A, object number: 5476-1859

Another focal point of the residency will be “The Grotto”. Palissy designed and fabricated architectural elements for two grottoes during his lifetime, only fragments remain showing ruffled rock-like surfaces with plants, reptiles and insects. With Palissy as muse, Rasmussen will explore the idea of the Renaissance grotto and bring “La Grotte Rustique” into the 21st century.

This residency is in partnership with the Danish Arts Foundation.


Malene, Hartmann Rasmussen, My Inner Beasts (British Ceramics Biennale), 2017, ceramic. © Sylvain Deleu


V&A Residency Programme

About the author

March 1, 2018

I am the Residency Programme Assistant at the V&A, managing our artists in residence and their studios. I also project manage many events, displays and installations run by our Learning...

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