MUNTHE ART MONDAY: TERPSICHORE SAVVALA
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do
I’m Terpsichore. I’m a ceramic artist from Athens, currently based between Athens and Copenhagen. My work is inspired by the Greek antiquity and the contemporary human condition, using classical forms to convey common emotions of the modern psyche. For example, the shape of Neolithic idols to express the everyday ennui, or the shape of epinetron (an ancient ceramic thigh protector used when thawing wool) seen as a feminist armour.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
It’s an interesting question. One of the first questions I made to my first ceramic teacher was why most famous ceramicists are men although students in ceramics are overwhelmingly women? He replied that it’s about bodily strength.
Well, I now know that it’s definitely not about that.
I wouldn’t want to go into how gender stereotypes affect all aspects of society, but it has become obvious to me that especially in ceramics, when something is made by a male artist it’s easier to be considered art, while if the same piece was made by a woman, it would be considered “craft”. Just something pretty to be used as decoration and not to be thought of again.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
Sonja Ferlov Mancoba. I saw an exhibition on her in SMK in Copenhagen three years ago and the feeling hasn’t left me since. She combined inspiration from different eras and continents and made sculptures that encompassed so many different cultures, old and new, resulting in completely modern shapes. What I love about her is that she didn’t shy away from loading her work with symbolism and feelings.
She sculpted themes that could be considered naive or even banal and treated them with such subtlety and sensibility that provoked emotions as if they had never been seen before. A good example is a beautiful sculpture of a bird and its young, also known as “mother and child”, one of my favourites, which is also the one that fittingly adorns the tomb of her and her husband.
She, as other women artists before her, was incredibly critical of her own art and she had famously thrown one of her pieces into a lake because “it didn’t behave”. The fact that an incredible artist like her had doubts about her worth, is both mind boggling and consoling to me.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
As many women, I too suffer from a kind of an impostor syndrome that I’ve noticed on other female artists I know too. A feeling that if a work of ours is popular, it’s other factors that make it so and not our work per se. I thought that in a practice like ceramics, where I make a piece from beginning to end, with no input from anyone whatsoever (besides the magic of fire of course) that i would be protected from that, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
I’ve seen it clearly on friends of mine who are brilliant artists, but they tend to have this feeling that makes them undervalue their work, both in terms of artistic and financial value. If only those women had the confidence of male artists of equal or less talent, I think they would thrive.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
I would like people to notice the humour in my work. I don’t like it when people take themselves too seriously, and I also try not to take my work too seriously either.
I tend to overanalyze and do too much research before I start working on something. But when I create the work, I end up making silly stories and personify my sculptures so much that, by the time they come out of the kiln it feels like we already have inside jokes between us. All the research that happened before that becomes just the context within which my pieces exist.
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