Cologne has a cool, charming almost Parisian feel about it with its ornate stately buildings and busy corner cafes and we are sat comfortably at one of these like locals, sipping an early morning coffee while on the phone. We are arranging to visit the studios of some artists who are based just outside the city and whose contact details we have been given by a young jeweller we met in the Sud Stadt -an arts quarter of the city that was recommended to us to visit.
After a walk around the main centre and an unmissable photo opportunity in front of the immense ‘Harry Potteresque’ cathedral, we head back to the van but not before experiencing a slightly stressful metro journey with around five hundred chanting football fans and a bewildered dog! We’re excited to be heading off the autobahns and into the rolling countryside of the Rhineland towards a small town called Seigburg. This where Ines and Christoph Hasenburg have kindly agreed to meet us and show us around their home studio.
This is the second time today I have been quite taken aback by scale. This time its not architecture but giant ceramic vessels that make me suddenly aware of my small stature. They stand to attention on the floor of the gallery coming just level with my nose! We are warmly invited in on a little tour including Miko and his crazy whip-lash tail that sends me into an internal panic every time we pass an artwork. I am assured however that these works are not easily destroyed and he is served a big bowl of water and allowed to roam happily in the studio and garden.
Ines and Christoph moved to Seigburg sixteen years ago into what was originally an old delapidated building. With a lot of hard work, ambition and imagination they have created an amazing pad here – one that incorporates a streetfront gallery, internal design studio, open plan workshop and upstairs living area. The space in which we’re standing is mesmerising. Its neither indoor nor outdoor and has a fabulous industrial vibe with heavy steel beams and exposed brick. Translucent panels in the flat roof canopy let the sun pool onto the wide floor boards that edge out into the small but lush garden area. Dotted around are one or two funky chairs, large leafy plants and some mismatched wooden furniture that gives the space a hip yet relaxed atmosphere.
We sit and chat about the partnership between Ines and Christoph. He is from West Germany and does most of the talking as he speaks English ( better than our few words of German!). Ines grew up in East Germany and so of course, Russian is her second language. They both play an equal role in creating these bold artworks. They also have a firm agreement. Ines is not allowed any say in the shape or form of these pieces or method by which they are created ( often using industrial sized, beautifully crafted ‘press’ moulds and robust gritty stoneware clay) and after the first bisque fire, Christoph’s role ends and they are passed onto Ines who is solely responsible for the magic that then happens on the surface. There are three main recurring forms, half spheres of varying sizes, tall slightly convex cyclindrical forms with closed ends cut at a sharp angle and large flat box like forms -all very confident statements.
Ines says her inspiration is her twenty years of experience in ceramics but I wonder if she can help but let her memories and life experience of growing up in East Germany play a part in this work. The raw expressive marks that seem involuntary and emotional at the same time are embedded alongside more decorative symbols in up to seven layers of colourful hues. Translucent glossy pastel glazes are anchored by flat chalky geometric sections of black, red or cobalt blue. Some are painted on and then scratched through to the layer below. What looks like graphite pencil (but is more likely a mineral oxide) is used to draw vigorously over and under these colours. Forwards and back, backwards and forward, the surface is painstakingly worked continually evolving until, as every artist has to, a decision is made that the piece is finished. These are essentially ceramic canvases. Each piece is unique, embodying and balancing the very different energies and characters of its dual creators.
I am so in love with these pieces that its difficult to leave. We do of course but with the promise to myself that I WILL own one of these pieces one day and it’ll stand prominently in our garden ( I have the spot marked in my head).
A big thank you to Ines and Christoph for making yourselves available on a public holiday and for being so welcoming and open at such short notice. I’ll definitely be revisiting your studio in the future!