by Lise Seisbøll, Director, M.A. Museum of International Ceramic Art - Denmark 

Borderland. Exhibition Catalogue. 2011


If one were to define where human emotions reside and operate in a physical sense, one answer might be, in the neural pathways under the skin, in the muscles that contract when we flex them, in the blood vessels and the blood that is constantly flowing in and out through the chambers of the heart. Emotions might be at play in each and every cell in the human body. This might not be something we think about when we have a language that lets us express these emotions verbally. But imagine being in Mariko Wada’s situation, in a country with a language that is completely alien to you. Initially, it is impossible to express emotions, moods and sensations verbally, but that of course does not close down the emotional apparatus; on the contrary. As I consider the uniquely styled soft and organic works by this talented– and now Danish trained – ceramicist, I imagine that in her encounter with Danish culture she may have thought, Well, I have one thing in common with these strangers: the way in which my emotional and sensory experience of life is making itself felt inside my body, all the way to the bone. All the way into the pumping veins.

Mariko Wada addresses her ceramic materials from a unique viewpoint: She seems to focus on the amazing difference between the soft, infinitely malleable clay – and the hardness that the modelled material takes on after being fired in the kiln. Some types of thoroughly modelled clay may take on a wet softness and, when in human hands, a pulsating, throbbing elasticity that makes the clay seem as organic as our own internal organs.

An unusual and highly personal insistence on preserving the original softness of the material through the transformation of fire and into the rock-hard result is combined with a design idiom that sparks associations to the appearance of the body’s internal organic structures – and their rhythmic movements. The similarity of these sculptural forms to living organs is increased by the surface treatment that Mariko Wada has developed: Through persistent and patient modelling and by means of particularly fine-grain clay colours she actually manages to address our gaze through a language of the body. And although the language of the body is usually articulated through soft, organic, highly variable and temporary materials – a heart, for example – the artist’s robust ceramic works appear as emotional statements that rise above both language/culture gaps and the vanity of time. 

With the exhibition “Borderland”, the Museum of International Ceramic Art – Denmark looks forward to taking the pulse of Mariko Wada’s exciting work with clay.

Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver

© Mariko Wada 2019