The development of ceramics in applied arts is characterized by various manifestations – decorative, applied, free, monumental with overlapping into other artistic disciplines. This diversity is a reflection of differential creative approaches and technological means of expression. One manifestation is the stylistic reassessment of the historical development of workmanship in conjunction with traditional technologies. A rich source of inspiration is presented by the folk ceramic creation of an applied and genre nature. The opposite point of view brings up the denial of tradition and the search for new possibilities for using materials in the technology of free hand modeling and design.
The department of ceramics in the postwar period in our country was represented by sculpture and applied objects drawing on the national character of Julie Horová, Dagmar Rosůlková and Ignác Bizmayer or the more modern abstract stylization oriented Miloš Balgavý. The ceramic sculpture of a souvenir character with a strong influence of art and craft traditions were replaced in the 1960s by the more sculptural composition of figural objects by Eugénia Lugsová and Teodor Lugs. In 1970s, individualistic creation with the use of few materials had its turn – the porcelain of Ľubomír Jakubčík.
The expressiveness of the sculpturally understood works by Teodora Lugs demonstrate compositionally balanced figural objects with the bold abbreviation of basic geometric outline of organic shapes. In stoneware sculptures, he tends towards the archaic ideal of female beauty (Torsos), the smooth contours and a simple shape subtly complemented by a drawing element and soft modeling. He later developed the replacement of convex surfaces with concave ones in a series of ceramic heads. Imrich Trizma was primarily interested in figural sculpture and painting glaze, which he perceived as equal components of the shaped object with prevailing geometricized shapes and the tectonic construction of the object. The mixing of visual arts is most pronounced in the work of Imrich Vanek, which oscillates on the border between painting and relief. He focuses mainly on figural compositions and effective action glaze. The experience gained in experimenting with means of expression also translated into monumental ceramic work connecting the art principles of expressive drawings and paintings with rich gilding and plastic molding.
From the 1960s ceramics started to take off in the relief decoration of architectural spaces. The monumental work of Juraj Marth is based on the processes of the additive managing of individual components and rhythmic construction of his work. He assembled dimensional ceramic surfaces into geometric figures from rectangular tiles of different sizes and different high reliefs with differentiated surfaces and colorfulness. In the 1970s he capitalized in monumental art also a long-standing cooperation with photographer Pavel Janek. It brought the discovery of the experimental techniques of applying photographic images onto a ceramic shard, which together with the exposed and developed photosensitive layer was passed through a second glaze firing.
Park and garden sculpture was profiled as a special art category in the 1960s. In numerous exhibitions in outdoor areas (the sculpture of Piešťany’s parks) there appeared figural sculptures and objects based on geometric compositions, diverse garden vases and so on. A whole group of artists was stylistically involved in the creation of garden ceramics (Eugénia Lugsová, Miloš Balgavý). Ľubomír Jakubčík asserted himself more significantly in this category with fence bricks serving as blocks for exterior compositions, but also with garden figural vases with a vertical line of silhouettes. Jozef Sušienka achieved the most significant achievements in park ceramics. From the 1960s he dealt intensively with a simpler shape expression, experimenting with glaze (glaze leavened) and informally textured plastic surfaces. His work is dominated by organic shapes and simple elements composed of “restraint fall” effects. These figures are characterized by composition and multiplication (vertical – pillars, towers, totems) as well as batch compositions of loosely spaced sets of objects (puffballs, toadstools, pumpkins). Free sculptures for water surfaces and fountains are quite rare environmental projects in our environment in the form of a group of dynamic archetypal forms of rounded volumes with concave-convex shaped forms for which a rhythm of positive and negative spaces is typical of Sušienka’s distinctive approach to work is reflected in a number of heuristic technologies. One of them is the so-called technology “battering” into shape from a fabric semi-finished material, another technique an op-art stylization of the swirling decoration of surfaces belonging to spherical objects.
In the mid-70s, there arose in ceramics a return to craft and the potter’s wheel in works with plate and window motifs by Marián Polonský and female torsos by Pavel Uhrík. Another important stage in the development of ceramics was played by the graduates of the Prague studio (Ilja Holešovský, Gabriela Luptáková, Richard Langer, Ivica Langerová-Vidrová and Juraj Vojčiak). In addition to creating chamber works with a range of expressive color glazes and many details, they were also focused on bulkier compositions with dramatic shape composition, or inclined towards the definition of ceramic sculptures as independent artistic objects (Elena Kárová, Jaroslav Košš, Rudolf Malacký and Vladimír Oravec). At the end of the 1980s ceramic sculpture varied in geometric, figurative or abstract positions, with metaphorical, spiritual and a philosophical-meditative content.
Ilja Holešovský abandoned the traditional technique of pottery making on the potter’s wheel, modeling in clay directly with his hands or pouring it into a mold. He dealt with reliefs, and gradually undermined their strict symmetry and flatness in order to give them a new impetus and release of forms. The texture of the work surface is formed by engraved drawings and the prints of various textile materials. Similarly he filled the content value of an artistic statement even in the sculptures modeled from slabs of clay. At the end of the 1970s he presented special ceramic “shelves”, which uses the principle of assembly combined with the impressions of real objects. Marian Polonský drew thematically from folk traditions and especially from Modra pottery. What’s typical for him is the compositional principle and the search for the significant relationships of the individual elements, refined colors and precise forms. He inserted finished semi-finished products/materials (pitchers), which associate human heads and figures by shaping and painting, into so-called Windows in different genre compositions. In experiments with low relief there also appeared ceramic graphics with intentions of sgraffito motifs with figurative themes. From the 1970s he was dedicated to garden sculpture, creating brick boxes from hollow twisted shapes and the central part of the object, adding a drawing and perforated expression. Bernardína Lunterová has been producing decorative-ornamental reliefs and ceramics sculpture and lyrical expressions emphasizing a figural motif. Libuša Čtveráková prefers tiny figural and relief sculpture of a decorative character with the soft shape-wise modeling of imprinted textile structures on clay surfaces. Jitka Petrikovičová’s domain is the reinterpretation of traditional pottery forms by applying colored glazes based on majolica.
Finally, at the end of the 1980s, there appeared a substantial amount of attempts to understand clay as an open, liberal medium. Experiments, symptomatic for the subsequent period, are based on the plurality of technological capabilities of clay processing. In Ivica Vidrová-Langerová’s work there resonates an interest in radical messages, as well as the application of the native color of earthy tones with applied transparent glazes. She focuses on earthen objects in the context of overlapping with fine art. She produces small architectural forms with the fine drawing of surface structures. When molding, haptics therefore plays an important role. She often paraphrases everyday functional objects – containers or pieces of furniture in which are articulated the ability to metaphorically interpret the archetypal context as well as current topics. A mystification of function is hidden behind an exterior shape analogy (vases converted in the form of earthen figures). Another feature of her work is the blending of fireclay with fine porcelain with an emphasis on the resulting structure, which calculates with the processuality from unfired clay up to cracking fired ceramics. The experimental approach to creation is the most noticeable in Jaroslav Košš’s works, who likes to combine clay with concrete, iron and plastic already in 1980s. In the 1990s, he created the assemblage of industrially manufactured products (tiles), the works on the border of free conceptual art and he carried out performances linking them to earthen material. Rudolf Malacký shared a similar arduousness, the theatricality and power of expression regarding earthen material dominated his work. Anna Horváthová also represents her own feeling, by investigating ceramic materials. She uses the principle of repetition shifting, multiplication and the stratification of miniaturized alternations of the shapes of individual objects in symmetrical or linear compositions. On the contrary, in Gabriela Luptáková’s work, the variety of sparingly applied white glazes on the objects from coarse texture fireclay is characteristic, in which she operates with the interaction of present and absent material. She often adds into formed shape a small detail of a found object or product of nature into the formed shape. The resulting subjects look like archaic idols, fetishes, others captivating a person with an apparent architectural structure.
Since the 1990s, ceramics has been subject to trends and the influence of fine creative art. The new generation brings an opinion of variety, the paraphrasing of known themes as well as genres, and naturally moves away from traditionally understood canons. Young artists create within the intentions of free objects and installations, combining clay with other materials, light or digital technology. They are focused on historical research and the technological possibilities of processing materials, glazes and firing. Edita Balážová’s work is a genre ceramic statement with postmodern features and paraphrases historical ceramics, ornamentation, and various forms of folklore, which she adorns with elements of comic iconography. Andrea Čepiššáková imprints onto clay a variety of textures from old blueprint forms, exotic themes from folklore and even the characters. Her installations with landscaped panorama are covered with charters in the function of ornamental and poetic textual commentary. Paulína Hoššová processes the topics of today’s society and culture, also forming into themes the motifs of serial production, reproductions or the exaggerated idolizing of artificially created idols. Ján Ševčík reflects the concepts of luxury and banality in ceramic pictures, which are a sort of social commentary. The phenomenon of intermedial overlapping is processed in Martin Rosenberger’s work, who consciously operates with porcelain transparency. He installs socio-critical works into a large format screen with artificial backlighting with the intention of creating the illusion of a magic glittering panel. Michal Kúšik uses the combination of diverse materials in the production of free objects and spatial installations. He is fascinated by the contrasting features of light and heavy shapes, ceramic and non-ceramic materials. A moment of kinetic motion attained by electricity often occurs in the designed object with respect to action in a particular environment.
In the work of other ceramics, graduates from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava there prevails greater captivation through design. Miloš Nemec is dedicated to the design of applied ceramic porcelain objects. The main feature of his work is pure accident, functional and aesthetic resolution as well as precise processing. The designs of Veronika Selingerová, Helena Pohanková, Eva Srníková, Stanislava Wagnerová, Božena Chandogová are based on shape associations and its functions, or Martin Bu, in whose work there prevails the transcription of various forms of objects into porcelain as well as futuristic and the newest morphology. From the youngest generation of graduates, Linda Viková and Simona Janišová are dedicated to ceramic design acting under their common brand si.li., and there is also Kristína Kolárovičová, who has won several prestigious awards for her conceptual art.