Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Metamorphosis of a Material

7.6.19 - 3.12.19

Modelling clay – this simple material made from water, oil, starch, wax, and pigments has the power to unleash astounding creative potential. Soft and easy to shape, modelling clay (also called plasticine) is not only ideal for chil-dren’s hands but also plays an important role in many areas of design. The exhibition All You Knead. Metamorphosis of a Material is dedicated to the fascinating uses of this material in film, art, and design, from the 1950s to contemporary pop culture. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is presenting over 60 international works, including animated film classics; popular favourites like Shaun the Sheep and Nightmare Before Christmas, based on an idea by cult director Tim Burton; legendary music videos such as Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer; experimental, short, and advertising films; and also computer games. Surprising sculptures, installations, and photographs demonstrate the value of modelling clay for contemporary art. The versatile use of this malleable material in applied art as well is documented by exhibits from the fields of model-making, product design, and special effects make-up. The show will delight film fans, art lovers and design buffs, families, and anyone interested in exploring, or rediscovering, the multifaceted world of modelling clay. And for those wishing to get some hands-on experience, an imposing 12-metre-long worktable offers plasticine in various colours for visitors both young and old to design and animate their own creations together.

Thanks to its material properties, modelling clay offers versatile creative options for designing figures, objects, and scenery. Animation techniques such as stop-motion bring still images to life. ALL YOU KNEAD brings together numer-ous films made with this technique – first and foremost classics of animation history that made use early on of the unique expressiveness offered by clay, such as Closed Mondays (1974) by directors Will Vinton and Bob Gardiner, Dimensions of Dialogue (1982) by Jan Švankmajer, and Bruce Bickford’s Prometheus’ Garden (1988). The popular characters in the series Wallace & Gromit (from 1993, Nick Park) and Shaun the Sheep (2007, Richard Goleszowski) from the British creative studio Aardman Animations have shaped the childhood memories of entire generations – as has the Swiss animated series Pingu (from 1986, Otmar Gutmann). Significant short and experimental films such as Harvie Krumpet by Adam Elliot (2003), Hasta los Huesos (2001) by René Castillo, along with animated works by a younger generation like Darling (2013) by Izabela Plucinska, demonstrate the versatile options that plasticine offers to work far beyond any conventions.

In music videos, modelling clay adds a new dimension to visual language, a creative way to render sounds, melodies, and rhythms visible. Art Clokey’s early animation study Gumbasia (1955) already explored the harmony of music and form, which Bruce Bickford later interpreted experimentally with Frank Zappa in the music film Baby Snakes (1979). When MTV established music television as a new genre, the strata-cut-films by David Daniels left an indelible impres-sion on several generations of music fans. Strata-cut is an unconventional animation technique in which visual ideas are first worked up as a single block of modelling clay. Thin slices are then cut from the block, revealing a new surface. The coloured cut surfaces show slight variations, which are captured as single frames and then animated in sequence. Still popular in music videos today, the clay aesthetics is bringing forth captivating compositions ranging from the ground breaking clip for Peter
Gabriel’s Sledgehammer (1986, Aardman Animations) to outstanding contemporary works such as Forest (2009) by Allison Schulnik for the band Grizzly Bear.

There is a long tradition of using malleable materials to create artworks. The soft mass is modelled with the hands while material is continually added and removed. With the “permanently plastic modelling clay” Plastilin, developed by Franz Kolb in the late 19th century, artists now had a material that wouldn’t dry out during the work process. The tactile properties of clay awaken the desire to form and shape, while allowing for immediate corrections, and the addition of pigments enables a kind of three-dimensional painting. Modern forms of artistic expression in clay are not limited to the creation of sculpted figures or reliefs but also extend to other disciplines. The artist Marlin van Soest at first used his studies of Hamburg’s Flint shipyard in illustrations and photographs, before translating them into scale reproductions in oven-hardened modelling clay. The scenery and figures in Brigette Hoffman’s Pommes Redemption (2018) are based on the Western genre and are notable for their expressive use of colour and cartoon-like characters. Everyday life and pop culture provide inspiration for the artistic work of Beni Bischof, who presents a humorous take on found pictorial material using plasticine. Bertold Stallmach’s mixed-media works are both works of art in their own right and movie sets, while Una Szeemann and Bohdan Stehlik photographically stage film scenes they have recreated in clay in Dark Movies (2006–2007). The replica of a bar by the artist Henrik Jacob installed in the exhibition provides impressive evidence of the spatial presence clay is capable of unfolding.

In the fields of design, crafts, and technology, modelling materials such as plasticine and industrial clay are still widely used as manual drafting and design tools despite the advent of 3D printing. On show in the exhibition are models and preliminary studies from the automotive and toy industries as well as from the field of special effects make-up that demonstrate the importance of clay for commercial applications. The popularity of clay in animation design can be attributed in part to its typical “handmade” aesthetics. Illustration and graphic design are further fields where model-ling clay has found innovative uses, as exemplified by the works of Brigitta Garcia López. In commercials for multina-tional corporations such as Coca-Cola as well as in game design the material appears in a range of variations.

All You Knead.  Metamorphosis of a Material is an exhibition organised by the Gewerbemuseum Winter-thur/Switzerland, curated by Susanne Kumschick. It was shown there in 2016 under the title Plot in Plastilin.

Image 1: Exhibition View 1, photo: Henning Rogge

Image 2: Computer game “Talking ABC”, 2018, developer studio: Hey Clay, operating system: iOS, © Hey Clay

Image 3: Exhibition View 3, photo: Henning Rogge

Image 4: Richard Goleszowski (*1959) & Christopher Sadler (*1970), Shaun the Sheep – Saturday Night Shaun, 2006, animated movie, 7 min., © Aardman Animations

Image 5: Lee Hardcastle (*1985), Tidal Wave/Portugal. The Man, 2018, music video, 3:30 Min., © Portugal. The Man

Image 6: Exhibition View 5, photo: Henning Rogge


Other Exhibitions

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


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