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Heidi Kippenberg

Experimentation & Classicism: Heidi Kippenberg’s 80th Birthday

Once she was a student of a classic German ceramicist. She’ll celebrate her 80th birthday in 2021 and has long been a classic herself. In the mid-1960s, Heidi Kippenberg studied under Walter Popp, the legendary teacher at the Kassel Art Academy whose work opened up new dimensions for ceramic vessels. With glazes inspired by Art Informel, Popp created never-before-seen ceramic containers by assembling parts turned on a potter’s wheel. These avant-garde ceramics seemed scandalous at the time, but are now acknowledged as milestones. Surely one of the most erudite students at the “Kassel School,” Kippenberg internalized the aesthetic of Popp’s vessels and simultaneously gave them her own distinctive touch. Connoisseurs appreciate her stoneware’s style as unmistakably “Kassel” and uniquely “Kippenberg.” Her oeuvre includes strongly twisted, thick-walled vessels, hemispherical bowls, indented cylindrical forms, spheres, rollers atop stepped bases and further enlivened by thick monochrome glazes, pastel-colored feldspar and impure blackish-brown ashen glazes, often dipped in opposite directions and augmented with sign-like contrastingly glazed accents, as well as complex vessel montages of twisted elements that transform the vessel from its centered, uniform compactness into a rhythmically structured sculptural composition. Another influence from a wholly different ceramic culture propelled Kippenberg’s work much farther from the Kassel style. That influence arrived late and East Asian ceramics were its source. There were surely affiliations to be found here: e.g. the calligraphic character of the glaze’s application. But there were also exotic elements such as a distinct emphasis on the materials. The smoothness and perfection of Kippenberg’s early vessels were supplanted by a mostly dark-toned, lively surface structure that resulted from the construction and mounting of her works. New forms emerged, e.g. stele-like rectangular and trapezoidal vessels. These were accompanied by a totally new treatment of the surfaces. Applying colored masses and adapting East Asian porcelain techniques, Kippenberg used the inlay technique to transform her vessels into decorative landscapes. An oeuvre from more than half a century can be admired!

Walter Lokau