Arne Åse is one of Norway’s most prolific ceramic artists and enjoys wide recognition both nationally and internationally due to his artistic work, his position as a teacher, and his strong opinions on the ceramic arts. He was the first professor of ceramics in Norway and has always worked to raise the reputation and prestige of the ceramic arts.
Åse was educated at The Bergen Academy of the Arts . In addition to the education he got on the pottery courses, he read everything he came across about ceramics and experimented on his own. He was particularly interested in high-fired glazes and experimented systematically to gather knowledge on recipes and firing conditions. Over the summer holidays he worked as a trainee at some of the most well-known Norwegian ceramic enterprises - Figgjo, Porsgrund and Stavangerflint. After graduating in Bergen in 1965 he studied to become an art teacher in Oslo.
Shortly after completing his education he was employed as a ceramic teacher at The Oslo National Academy of the Arts (SHKS) in Oslo. One of the first things he did there was to install a gas oven in the backyard of the school. Gas was necessary to experiment further with glazes and firing techniques. Thanks to Åse a new impetus came to Norwegian ceramics education. In 1986 Åse was appointed a professor position at his old school in Bergen but a year later returned to Oslo to become a professor at the ceramics department at The Oslo National Academy of the Arts.
Åse’s first solo exhibition in Forum in 1968 was a demonstration of various techniques, forms and expressions. A series of classic miniature vases with the prettiest glazes stood as a tribute to the Easts significance on the ceramic arts, but also to more domestic idols like Nathalie Krebs and Berndt Friberg. He displayed eggshell thin bowls in translucent porcelain and powerful works in rough clay with thick, runny glazes. Arne Åse was the first ceramic artist in Norway that used porcelain as a material. At this exhibition he also showed several reliefs, a technique he came to work with more in the future.
In the years that followed, he experimented further with techniques and materials. He understood that if he were to gain complete control of the firing process, it was necessary with methodical research. In 1979 he filled the halls of the Museum of Applied Art in Oslo with large wafer-thin bowls and platters. This exhibition did not have very much variation in terms of format, Åse concentrated on plain circular plates and bowls in porcelain to highlight décor and colors. The decor was in low relief, or painted with nervous and vibrating strokes in oxblood. The low relief-painting was a technique that he himself developed and that he has continued to work and experiment with. He paints with shellac on the unburned chinaware, then wash away the uncovered surfaces with water. Thus some parts become thinner and more transparent than the others.
Until the beginning of the 1980s Åse explored a variety of materials, techniques and expressions, but in the last 20 years he has worked exclusively with porcelain decorated in various ways. He developed and perfected his low-relief technique and this is now featured both internally and externally on bowls and plates making an intricate light and shadow-effect.
He has also developed a technique that best can be described as watercolor painting on porcelain. This work resulted in a book about the watercolor technique called “Water colors on Porcelain”. In the recent years he has perfected and refined his thin unglazed tiles, plates, and bowls in porcelain.
Written by: Randi Gaustad, art historian, now retired senior curator at The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design