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Jan Ernst STIRred 2023 with a barrage of organically strewn ceramic works
Safe Haven, Portrait of Jan Ernst and Shape of Water
Image: Courtesy of Jan Ernst

Jan Ernst STIRred 2023 with a barrage of organically strewn ceramic works

STIR celebrates the multidisciplinary South African artist’s foray in collectable lamp designs, furniture design and wall murals. 

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Dec 30, 2023

Jan Ernst, a multidisciplinary creative from South Africa, utilises clay as the medium to express his observations and imagination. He specialises in functional art and collectable design, and his creations are informed by a perpetual fascination with natural entities. From sand dunes and seedpods to the flow of water and the undulating landscapes around him, the artist finds inspiration in all tangible entities in his vicinity.

STIR scans through some of his contributions in the realms of furniture design and ceramic art, from this year.

1. Pieces

Jan Ernst’s Safe Haven is a ceramic wall sconce made out of white stoneware clay. The wall sconce, which doubles as a mural, comprises nearly a dozen different pieces that have been configured into a sculptural feature measuring 800 millimetres. Its design is inspired by the natural vegetation that graces the nearby mountains and the serene waters of False Bay. It embodies the essence of two individuals meeting and harmoniously complementing each other, much like the elements of the sconce itself. Ernst crafted this piece to be installed in the patio area outside a private residence in Simonstown, in Western Cape, South Africa. The white ceramic feature complements its white backdrop during the day and cradles warm light during evenings. The interplay of these lights conjures a warm and inviting ambience.

Chance and Chaos is another ceramic wall mural by Ernst that was designed by the South African artist to be installed in a private residence in Seapoint, Cape Town, South Africa. The wall piece is inspired by the beauty of nature and the raw energy of volcanic eruption. The mural art pays homage to the intricate patterns found in nature, the juxtaposition of tranquillity and turbulence often found there and aims to capture the essence of life's dualities. Crafted from white stoneware clay, it measures two metres in length and one metre in height. Each curve and contour has been meticulously sculpted by hand, showcasing the ceramic artist's skill in translating his inspiration into a tangible entity.

Convergence is a wall mural that is inspired from the charming amalgamation of natural forces that one witness around themselves. It signifies the poetic synergy that takes place when different elements such as water, air or earth harmoniously come together. The mural at once symbolises the fusion of time and human relationships. It represents the meeting of the past and the present and the intertwining of generational stories. “It gives the impression of a relic from a forgotten era, reminiscent of fossils or ancient remnants that have long been extinct. The mural elicits a sense of enchantment, drawing viewers into a mystical realm. The intricate details of the ceramic pieces appear ancient, enigmatic, and yet strangely familiar as if they are from a time long past, or perhaps from a parallel world,” reads a description of the artistic mural.

The Shape of Water capsule collection comprises a series of five stoneware mirrors, the design of which is inspired by the relationship between people and water. Just like our memories (that are linked to experiences with water bodies) are defined by the playful nature of the liquid, Ernst’s mirror designs, too, embody an organic sculpt that metaphorises the fluid movement of water. “Inspired by the profound connection between humans and water, these pieces capture the importance of the physical connection with water, inner reflection and contemplation, and water as a life source,” Ernst shares.

Inspired by the crests and troughs of the dunes around the South African coastline, the Dune Mirror by Jan Ernst embodies these soft organic curves. The framing of the mirror with these organic curves is evocative of the mirages that one witnesses in the desert.

2. Events to remember

The ceramic artist unveiled his collection, namely Time Lapse, at PAD Paris from March 29 to April 2, 2023. The limited edition series includes seven new designs, five of which were shown in Paris at the Objects with Narratives exhibition and the other two of which were unveiled virtually. “Through my work, I try to interpret the themes of life and death, birth, decay and time,” shares Ernst. The fluid designs stem from an abstract understanding of form and space—a juxtaposition of his architectural background, in tandem with his South African heritage and affinity towards nature. The Time Lapse collection comprises bespoke lighting design, with a spotlight on the centrepiece of the collection, namely ‘Daydream tree,’ a floor lamp abstracted from a tree trunk.

Ernst’s first design exhibition in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, commissioned by the Fougue Foundation, showcased five bespoke mirrors and three ceramic and bronze candelabras. On view since November 2023, the items on display include the Shape of Water ceramic mirrors, the Tide collection and Convergence. While Shape of Water and the Tide collection are made using ceramic, the Tide collection comprises an amalgamation of ceramic and bronze elements. Pieces in the collection include coffee tables, side tables and candelabras.

Ernst also exhibited his works at Collectible 2023 and the exhibition Postcards from Rotterdam in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, from February 10 to March 10, 2023.

STIRred 2023 wraps up the year with compilations of the best in architecture, art, and design from STIR. Did your favourites make the list? Tell us in the comments!

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