Rut Bryk - The Magic Box
26 January - 13 May 2018
Rut Bryk – The Magic Box is an extensive review of the work of ceramic art pioneer, Rut Bryk (1916–1999), a key figure in post-war Finnish art. Bryk is a household name for many Finns, but on what is her iconic status founded? Was she a designer or an artist, a ceramicist or a visual artist? How did a creator of ceramic tiles with fantasy motifs become a pioneer of abstract art and of the concept of relief?
Having begun her career as a graphic artist, Bryk had no experience with ceramics when she was invited to work at the art department of the Arabia factory during World War II, a time of material shortages. The factory’s recruitment policy turned out to be far-sighted, and within ten years Arabia’s art ceramics was all the rage among international circles. Bryk’s works were awarded the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennial. A reclusive but artistically uncompromising and tireless experimenter, Bryk enjoyed technical challenges and was able to update her style again and again – without ever losing its intimate, personal undertone. The arc of Bryk’s work reflects the story of modern art as a whole.
Rut Bryk – The Magic Box is the largest-ever review of the life’s work of the internationally awarded artist. Comprising a hundred works, the show includes early pieces associated with everyday life and the home, as well as larger and more abstracted works that demonstrate Bryk’s flair as a colourist – along with her sureness as a modernist who endowed the abstract form with a soul. Her Pop Art-spirited palette of the late sixties is exuberant, giving way gradually to a spiritual light. The exhibition is a journey through time to when industry still believed in the power of culture. Artistic idealism brought together beauty and technology and wedded sensitivity with strength. The backstory includes the re-emergence of Finland from the ravages of war to a status of modern industrial nation, as well as that of a cultural player in international arenas.
The exhibition is produced by EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, where it was on display during the centenary of Rut Bryk’s birth in 2016. Most of the works on show are on loan from the collection of the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation, held on deposit at EMMA. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of guided tours by art experts that illustrate the background of the show. The show is based on the manuscript of Harri Kalha’s book on Rut Bryk’s life and art published by EMMA in 2016.