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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Maria Rubinke

Maria Rubinke

( Danish, 1985 )
Ceramic artist.

Cracks in the glazing – surreal object displacement

Maria Rubinke (b. 1985) is Danish and studied at the Glass- and Ceramic school Bornholm. Since graduating in 2008 she has attracted an enormous amount of attention with her sculptures, which break with the traditional aesthetic one associates with small, charming porcelain figurines. Their inherent innocence is put at risk in the artist's works, where various catastrophes have resulted in fragmentation and deformation. In one series of objects the traditional porcelain doll is removed from its idealized world and placed on the battlefield of subconscious desire. Here violence and aggression are played out in bloody tableaux in sharp contrast to the decorative delicacy of the material.

The figures are composed in a way that gives them psychological content, playing on burlesque and humoristic associations. One such is “Eat me!” where the soft heads of the babies replace the ice cream, and a couple of extra swirls on top function as horns growing from the forehead. The fragile material, the soft skin, as well as the helplessness of the babies in their role as the objects of desire, suggest a theme of victimhood, albeit with humorous undertones. The series can also be interpreted as a critical commentary on our consumer society, where a human can be confused with a consumable item. Making the skin of the baby seem so edible is also a way of visualizing a spontaneous reaction we often have to babies: "Oh, aren't you lovely! I could just eat you up!" Help yourself, says Maria Rubinke. But as we move between the temptations of ice cream and a baby's soft skin we are disturbed by the trickle running down the face, with associations to both strawberry topping and blood.

This movement between the aspect of victimhood and desire introduces an interesting psychological perspective. Maria Rubinke's works can be seen in relation to the object strategies of surrealism, which in great part were inspired by Sigmund Freud's Das Unheimliche. Concepts such as castration anxiety and infantile complexes were assimilated by surrealists through their fascination with the subconscious. Maria Rubinke tears her objects loose from their normal meaningful and rational contexts. By subjecting everyday objects to a displacement, in some instances creating a new eroticized hybrid, the artist summons up the sinister. A spine-tingling disquiet is created by the weaving together of a dead object (ice cream) and a living subject (the baby heads).

In “Model child” the artist considers the current fashion for humanizing our pets. The subconscious desire is projected onto the hybrid expression of the chihuahuas. The hybrid anatomy of baby and dog reveals our position of libidinous desire, before the censorship of our reason falls across it, and shows us the hidden and taboo-laden. The dogs are clothed as children and function as a substitute for intimacy and physical contact, or, as the title suggests, the dream of having a baby. The dogs' baby costumes and anatomical helplessness can suggest subjugation and objectification. The desiring eye transforms the creatures into helpless, innocent victims.

In applying gold to details of her works Maria Rubinke is in a long historic line stretching back to ancient Chinese porcelain traditions. In the nineteenth century British china dogs were a common element of fashionable interiors. The glazed figurines were often purchased by sailors in British ports and brought back to the mantelpieces of Scandinavia and Northern Europe. This feature of British porcelain production took as its model the ancient Chinese Fu dogs, porcelain figures that stood guard by the altars of Buddhist temples in China.

Maria Rubinke reminds us that catastrophe, taboo subjects, and destruction often find their way into the innocent world of toys. Children will bring to their sense of play a freedom that also encompasses brutality and death, thereby flying in the face of the norms ascribed to the toy by its maker. Children who crash planes and cars, or give their Barbie dolls a crew cut, are expressing a spontaneous and unpredictable creativity. Maria Rubinke employs the same ethic, challenging the expectations we bring to the grammar of toys. The artist wrestles from the toy its innocence, purity, and didactic function, in order to dive headlong and with a constant smile into taboo subjects such as existential estrangement and the subconscious displacements of desire.

Beside the remains of a full-grown cod rises a porcelain doll, shorn of all her innocence. The moment of birth is magical and her rush upwards is caught in the swirl of her hair. This bloody metamorphosis would have us recall the world of myths where gods are born of animals. The biblical legend of Jonas and the whale relates the moment of regurgitation as a symbolic tale of cleansing and conversion.

Maria Rubinke's works are also about contradiction, the desire's moment of victory trumped by Death's ironic smile. Humans are never fully in control of these deeply serious and potent forces, which perhaps explains their constant recurrence in the great themes of world art. The number of myths and dramas that describe how a Dionysian chaos, once devoid of any Apollonian clarity, dissolves into decay and destruction, are beyond count. Energy, powerlessness, desire, death – the ground is constantly shifting in her works, but never without a humoristic smile. The serious is counterbalanced by burlesque laughter, by gaping skulls that invite you along to life's great steeplechase. The formal elements mirror a world of pleasure.

In “Wannabe Mermaid” (Selfish) the beard of the cod and its bones are echoed in the flailing hair. The technical possibilities of the porcelain are pushed to the limit to achieve this play with motifs, as it is again in the perforation of Bambi-trophies by bullets and entry wounds. A masochistic game where both hunter and hunted are victims? The feminine Bambis wear their entry wounds decoratively, almost like a gold necklace, a point emphasized by the ornamental gold trimming. Two revolvers decorate the phallic form of the antlers, a crowning which perhaps can be interpreted as an ironic comment on the heroic rituals of the hunt. The play on gender constructions and mythologies can refer us also to erotic symbolism of the phallic and the perforated. This Bambi, with her pistol power, is all ready to even out the odds in the final reckoning.

Tone Lyngstad Nyaas, Curator, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum.

Scholarships and awards:
Nationalbankens Jubilæumsfond - 25.000 kr
For one graduating student - Biggest Talent 2008
Scholarship - Vestfyns Bank

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