The photographic work of late XIXth century German botanist Karl Blossfeldt has fascinated ceramicist Astrid Dahl since she studied at The Durban Techinikon of Natal in South Africa in the mid-Nineties. Using a homemade camera, Blossfeldt was able to magnify his subjects—plants or parts of plants he would delicately cut—to thirty times their original size, revealing them to the world as what he described ‘totally artistic and architectural structures’.
Astrid Dahl has taken over the challenge to translate the tropism shaping these ‘structures’ into three dimensions, working from her favourite material, clay. After interpreting the photographs into drawings of her own, Astrid Dahl uses white clay in order to play with the contrasts between light and shadow specific to Blossfeldt’s photographic works. She can spend hours and hours standing ‘to create ultra-fine edges, sharp points, and the silky feel’ that she aims to give to her work, pushing her practice to the limits of what the hand and the clay can do together.
In Dahl’s beautiful and strange artworks, the plants or parts of plants observed by Blossfeldt now surge in the space in their exaggerated scale- 40cm across or more-and their surreal whiteness,. Astrid Dahl ‘s ceramics continue the “examination of the inventory of perception” that Walter Benjamin and other members of the Avant-Garde so much admired about Blossfeldt’s photographic work. Furthermore, in a period when we question the commodification of nature by humans, these sculptures revive our feeling of awe towards its complexity and beauty.