Darren Arnofsky’s movie, Black Swan tells the story of a young woman, who taps into her dark side to become a better dancer. Watching Nina Sayers – the character played by Natalie Portman – surpass her limitations makes it easy to jump into the conclusion that getting in touch with your “black side” makes you stronger and more complex. In the art world it means you can be a better artist: the one that expresses emotions truly, and is braver about breaking the rules.
The “Black Doll Head” cup by Ende Ceramics breaks all the rules of traditional porcelain at once. It is not only black, but also has a matt surface. In addition, its form – a dolls head – doesn’t refer to the historical terms of elegance usually associated with porcelain cups. Does this mean that “Black Doll” could be considered the black character of Polish ceramics? Not quite. “I was experimenting with dark pigments because I wanted to create an anti-thesis to traditional porcelain” – says Natalia Gruszecka, one half of the creative pair that is Ende Ceramics. “Where there is fragility I wanted to add strength; where there is lightness I wanted to add weight and definition”. “Black Doll” is the best evidence that when it comes to art, “black” is not necessarily “bad”. More likely, it’s intriguing.
Ende Ceramics is based in Wrocław. Natalia Gruszecka and Jakub Kwarciński were among the first (if not the first-first) to introduce the black porcelain to Polish contemporary design. A few years back it was one of the main factors that helped Ende stand out in the crowd. Today, lots of other Polish designers are experimenting with this colours too. Black porcelain has become fashionable. Regardless, Ende still has its own identity built on the tension between old and new, tradition and innovation. For example: one of their other pieces called “Trident”, is a hybrid of a cup and a mug. It has the traditional ‘ear’ of a porcelain cup, but is taller like a mug, and instead of a flat base, it stands on three little pointed feet. “Black Doll” has a similar twist: it is inspired by old dolls for children, yet it is made with contemporary materials.
Connecting opposing aesthetic values and forces within one project will often lead to new and unexpected artistic results. To succeed, one needs to practice. Sadly for Arnofsky’s main character, Nina had none. Luckily for Ende, they have plenty and know exactly what they are doing.
In “D-File” series of mini-essays, Ania Diduch – art and design critic tells the stories behind Polish designs and designers, both iconic and forgotten. Just like in police files, she collects the evidence, talks with the witnesses, examines the photos and finally writes the report.