About Merete Larsen


Roland Blaettler

"I like the contrast between the piece of solid wood that 1 mount on my lathe and the delicate and r translucent object that emerges from it after hours and hours of turning"

Upon meeting Merete Larsen one is first struck by her energy, temperament and determination. She appears to be someone who knows where she is going, constantly on the move... Once beyond this initial impression of impatient mobility, one discovers that her bubbling personality is rooted in sensitivity, a capacity for concentration and an exacting nature.

These same qualities are also to be found in the itinerary of her life and in her work. It took a great deal of energy and strength of character to build a life around an affinity with trees. By choosing to become a cabinet-maker, and then a restorer of antique furniture, both arduous and demanding professions, she learnt first to master the material so that it served our needs, and then to tend the wounds inflicted by time on treasured pieces. But, above all, she learnt to understand the nature of wood, to the point of embarking on a new and more personal adventure with this material.

As a result Merete Larsen has been turning vessels in wood for the last ten years, using fanuliar species such as ash, beech or sycamore, which she fashions with the basic tools of the woodturner. But, also, with increasingly refined skill and intuition, and with the respectful care due to a living material.

Motivated by a sense of challenge as well as of pleasure, Merete undertook this new apprenticeship in the solitude of her workshop. It took a great deal of strength and physical endurance. It also required patience and a receptive nature to acquire the intuitive faculty which allows her today, when cutting up a tree with a chainsaw, to anticipate the effects she can obtain from each piece of wood.

From the beginning she had a clear and distinct aim: to extract from crude and massive chunks of wood, pure and refined forms. In brief, to push the turning process to the utmost limit until the wood is reduced to a thickness of one millimetre and can no longer hold back the light (as in those 18th century porcelains that Merete is so fond of). With time her shapes have become increasingly ample and controlled, their monumental presence contrasting with their infinite lightness.

Merete Larsen's approach is guided by her quest for formal perfection. Her real talent lies in creating perfect shapes - as perfect as possible - but which are not frozen in their refinement. The precise and controlled gesture is not a goal in itself but a means of exploring the mystery of the material. Through the magic translucidity at the heart of this formal perfection we perceive the secret structures of an organic material, the chaotic patterns of life itself. And when Merete is moved to add colour to her shapes, or lines of burnt incisions, she does so without hindering the wood's translucidity nor concealing its texture. Despite her highly controlled manipulation of the wood, her material never loses its identity.

Beyond the aesthetic qualities of her work is to be found a lively tension residing in the apparent ambiguity of practising a rigorous technique which seems to strive for immateriality. Paradoxically this does not lead to a denial of the material nature of the wood but, on the contrarv, enhances and reaffirms it with powerful subtlety.

Merete Larsen speaks of her work with the modesty of a craftsman. But there is to be found in these sublime vessels something which goes beyond mere skill, and which we will not attempt to define.

Roland Blaettler Curator Musee Ariana, Geneve