Artist Spotlight : Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye

Pots are ubiquitous. They appear everywhere in our lives. They play central roles in many of our rituals; they store and serve food. They are placed in homes and museums as objects of contemplation; they emerge from the earth to reveal secrets of civilization that are thousands of years old. One of the mistakes the uninitiated often make about pots is that they believe they are simple, uncomplicated objects. Even the initiated can make this error.
— Garth Clark

We first learned about Turkish Ceramics Artist Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye from the Pierre Marie Giraud Gallery at Design Miami and went back to our hotel to lose ourselves in a labyrinth of breathtaking images.

Recognized for his unparalleled expertise in ceramics, Pierre advises European and American museums on collection acquisitions and curatorial issues, and collaborates with a number of institutions on the promotion of contemporary ceramics. This past June, the spotlight was on Siesbye whose new book was just published as limited edition of 1,200 copies. And like all successful limited edition runs, they were gone in a heartbeat. 

Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye was born in Istanbul of Turkish parents. From 1956 to 1958 she studied sculpture at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts, while also attending Füreya's Ceramic Workshop. She spent two years a production worker in the ceramic factories at Höhr-Grenzhausen, returning to Istanbul in 1960 to work in the Art Workshop of the Eczacibasi Ceramic Factories. In 1963 she moved to Copenhagen, where she worked first for the Royal Copenhagen and, since, 1969, has had her own workshop. She has designed for both Rosenthal and Royal Copenhagen. She now lives and works in Paris.

Alev Ebüzziya’s vessels are characterized by their proud stance, and pristine outlines. However, they present quite a contrast to the formal diversity of ancient Anatolian ceramics, as they focus, and elaborate on subtle variations of a single reductive bowl form. These bowls are curvaceous, thin walled, and wide rimmed. Unlike ancient Anatolian wares, they are made of denser, high-fire, gray-white stoneware, giving strength to their thin walls, and are built with a combination of complex, wheel-thrown and coil-built techniques. They stand on a tiny, non-visible foot, which lightly lifts the bowls from the surface they stand on, endowing them with a gravity-defying stance. Their ample bodies invite the viewer, to contemplate the silence of the space they hold within. In appearance, these streamlined vessels seem much more ethereal, and delicate, than ancient Anatolian pottery. However, in terms of their spatial containment, and purity of form, these minimalistic large bellied volumes, relate beautifully to the ample-bodied bowls of the Van-Urmiya and Trans-Caucasian regions, and to the full-bodied Hittite beak-spouted vessels. The minimalistic aesthetics of Ebüzziya’s sculptural vessels, has its roots not only in these ancient terracotta vessels, but also in the great bronze cauldrons of the Urartian, and Phrygian periods (9th-7thcenturies BCE), the Greco-Persian, Hellenistic and Roman clay, glass, and metal vessels (6thcentury BCE-12thcentury CE), and Seljuk metal wares (12th-13thcentury CE), all produced on Anatolian soil.

While purity of form where “less is more” is certainly the signature of Ebüzziya’s sculptural style, this approach has not distanced her from developing a very personal, and selective surface decoration, to complement her forms. Ornamentation of a very subtle kind is an essential feature of Ebüzziya’s visual vocabulary, where it is used to highlight important formal features, and to create rhythm. Her bowls are not about transience, but are the material manifestations of a profound quest for preservation, continuity, and a deep desire “not to forget, but to remember again and again”. In the soundless depths of Ebüzziya’s vessels where past and present merge, the vibrant soul of ancient Anatolia continues to reverberate with universal appeal in the hearts of people from different horizons, transcending cultures, geographies, and time.

Siesbye in her Paris studio, 1978.

Siesbye in her Paris studio, 1978.

sophie sagar