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Gundi Dietz

Being Touched

Every one of these porcelain women has a presence that quietly but forcefully calls out for space and attention. Whether their gaze is turned inward or looking straight ahead, their fundamental mood is one of calm. They touch us through the way they are. The costly and technically demanding material in which they are made – porcelain – seems to be symbolic of the wondrous humanity that is the subject of Gundi Dietz’s art. What material could better convey the uniqueness of the feelings made present in these figures?

They immediately evoke associations with East Asia: China, the cradle of porcelain-making, and Japan with its reductionist aesthetic. Soft skin in polished unglazed porcelain bears scratches and markings that seem to be the scars of life itself. Nothing is superfluous, nothing is de trop. A white face with few features well applied. Coloured lines conjure up a character that is compelling because it is reduced to essentials. Here and there traces of pale glaze suggest hair, a garment or red lipstick. Skimpy textile elements are worked in and Silvie, Zillie and Pauline become tangible. Sometimes, however, incisions inflicted on the polished matt skin are clearly painful wounds. This experimental approach to porcelain is another link with the East Asian tradition. Something new can be created through unconventional variations on the elaborate procedures of porcelain manufacture or through measures taken at a risky moment in production. Even thousands of years ago this rough way of working was familiar to Chinese porcelain-makers, who when necessary were not afraid to treat their beloved porcelain coarsely. Gundi Dietz has been following the figurative path for decades, untiringly exploring porcelain’s potential for bold and frank sensuality.

What is it about them that reminds us of Chinese monks rapt in meditation or of serenely smiling deities in blanc de Chine? Is it the eyes so often closed, the skin’s white tint, or the evident felicity of souls in a state of repose? What gave Pauline her distinctive form and character? What is going on inside her? Once Gundi Dietz has given her porcelain figures their basic cast and smooth surface, she works on them until an authentic woman emerges, radiating a distinctive personality forged out of a sensual body and a soul that is lost to the world.

Dr. Claudia Lehner-Jobst - porcelain historian, freelance curator and writer for museums and private collections (collection from the prince of Liechtenstein - Vaduz-Vienna, art history museum - Vienna, Augarten porcelain museum - Vienna and others)

Translation by John Nicholson, Vienna

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