by Catherine Koenig, art historian

Cups, fine and delicate bowls, with abstract decor like watercolor
Boxes that stack, split, rise like Lilliputian buildings. Clay slabs, as thin as paper sheets
Sinuous lines like feather strokes with Indian ink
Transparent color stains like watercolor
Pale faces with haggard eyes like resurgent ghosts from the past

Karima Duchamp is a ceramist and a visual artist. Each of the two modes of expression allows her to explore the material and its metamorphoses. Clay material and pictorial material. In her workshop in Mulhouse, she invents a world of lines and colors, shapes and faces painted on terracotta enameled with a slip or painted in oil and mixed technique on canvas or paper.

Karima Duchamp was born in the East part of France (Doubs). After graduating in foreign languages ​​and after a long stay in Manchester and London, she started to paint at the end of the 90s. Little by little her expression became more pronounced, her desire to learn and to seek the right form unfolded and slowly germinated in her the inextinguishable desire to create. At the turn of the year 2000, she followed the training in ceramics at la Maison de la Céramique in Mulhouse. Then, she obtained with honors, her M.A from the School of Fine Arts in Besançon. Her ceramic creations have earned her numerous exhibitions in France and abroad, and numerous prizes and awards have given her international recognition as a ceramicist.

Working with kaolin, white porcelain clay, she creates multiple useful and delicate objects. Cups, bowls, spoons are poetic and fragile receptacles. Knowing perfectly the material of porcelain, Karima Duchamp went to explore the field of plastic creation. She began to build boxes in the shape of parallelepipeds with covers and then stacked cubes, becoming complex structures that strangely resemble dwellings, miniature buildings. On the walls, Karima Duchamp draws blind windows, silhouettes along the walls, cracked walls, closed grids, blurred images, erased prints ...

Karima Duchamp has a vital need to work with the clay, its particular materiality, its heaviness, its density, its firmness, which become under her hands and her creativity, fragility, delicacy, opalescence. Through hard work, she managed to master the slab of clay to give it ever more finesse until it gave the impression of a sheet of paper. On the porcelain slabs, she paints with transparent engobes like watercolor, fine lines as drawn with Indian ink.

Karima Duchamp draws a lot, every day; in her travel book that never leaves her, she searches, invents, explores; she reads magazines, she cuts and sticks images, extracts of text which nourish her reflections. Above all, she loves ruin, the deterioration of time, faded flowers, the peculiar silence of the past made up of scraps of scattered memories. She walks every day on the canvas to capture the passage of time, the "why not" that arise and accompany with their dynamism the ideas that are born. This is how she travels every day inside her workshop and on the huge web of virtual connections.

She has traveled a lot, she attended residencies in Japan in 2013 and in 2018, in Philadelphia in 2015, in Germany in 2019, in China in 2021. Her real and virtual journeys are a rich breeding ground which allows her to cultivate her curiosity and her creativity. 

For many years, her work as a ceramist has been coupled with a plastic creation. When she paints, she works the backgrounds of the canvas by kneading the paint, by superimposing the layers, by grinding the material, work comparable to that of the ceramist who prepares his clay. This hand to hand with pictorial materiality is necessary for her. It is through this confrontation with the material that exhausts its strength and violence that she tries to achieve lightness. She paints the background, adds, scrapes, repaints a new layer, superimposes, spreads, rubs. She washes her colors a lot, mistreats her backgrounds. The colors are often dissonant, composed of acid chords, chromatic audacity which make a sound a little creaky.

It is as if, as for contemplation, there emanates an inhabited silence, a mystery which is revealed, a buried secret which goes up in the light of evening dusk. By painting, by letting herself be carried by the timeline which glides imperturbably, Karima Duchamp feels in her, erased memories, inexpressible secrets, repressed fears. Little by little, the forms appear, rise to the surface of the canvas, assert themselves and stand out. The colors become denser and explode in intense and contrasting chromaticism. It is little by little, during the preparation work that things happen and that the silhouettes appear. Blurred faces, drawn silhouettes, blank looks and as if lost inside themselves, barely sketched hands already empty and abandoned. The figures reveal themselves, arise from the depths, dissolve, rise like so many faces from the dark waters of memory. When she was going, as a child, to wander on the muddy roads, when she was playing with clay, when she was sliding on the grated embankments in summer and winter on cardboards for slides that were always started again. The odors of grass, soil, rain, the smells of childhood go back to memory ... Karima Duchamp escapes from the present, she floats in weightlessness.

Now, Karima Duchamp feels in the midst of a metamorphosis. She is entering a new period. She "enters" into painting, a sign of a passage, a passing through the mirror to discover herself and her creation, always begin again.

Catherine Koenig, March 5, 2020

the visible / the invisible, solo exhibition - Landes Museum, Oldenburg, August 2015

by Monika Gass, director of the Westerwald Museum of Ceramics, Germany

It was Karima Duchamp herself who offered me the most interesting sentence about her work. She quoted Agnes Martin, an American artist who moved from naturalist painting to expressionism and has exhibited at the Dokumenta in Kassel and the Venice Biennale.

Martin says "in my painting, it's not about showing what is visible.

"My painting are not about what is seen. "

This also applies to the Oldenburg exhibition.

“Was wir sehen / was wir nicht sehen” (what we see / what we don't see)

Karima Duchamp's work, her style is realized slowly, for her as for the person, man and woman, who looks…

There, I would like to say "thank god" because this is precisely what is interesting, the pleasure of entering hef work, the slow discovery, the development of the material ...

When I saw her work for the first time, during a ceramic jury in 2014, I was immediately fascinated: images, stories ... immediately unfolded before me, emerging from the surfaces of rooms covered with rich materials, many facets, drawings, fragments of printing on ceramic surfaces, fascinating nuances of colors, fragments of tales, imaginary worlds, vague bits of images…

Me - and not only me - I was confronted with pieces, like mosaic, which butted on me.

Almost said / only thought

A poetic thread in a half-half-known language.

Questions that arise to my subconscious: Do I know that? Is it a confidence? Do I put something personal in the patterns, in the surfaces? What do I really see? or better, what is revealed to me about Karima Duchamp?

While preparing for this evening here in Oldenburg, I inquired: What is the artist's intention? How does she manage to achieve this thickness and this poetry in her work?

The use of ceramic (clay) by Duchamp and the different means of painting fully serve to show what cannot be manifestly seen, what everyone does not see immediately, the words of everyday language are too poor, can not say, and it takes poetry, imagination to translate what our affect returns to us.

It is important for the artist to materialize, to fix with ceramic what we feel so strongly in situations of love, joy, fear, stress.

She fixes, anywhere in the many facets of her painting, in the materials that are specific to her, which in normal times is often clearly "visible" only by children, gifted artists or "crazy people" " She tries to say and describe in her artistic expression what is not easy to show in a clear and precise way.

Karima Duchamp puts spiritual in her art. She gives us her own imagination, lets us understand how her "IMAGO" is expressed in the force of her drawings.

Thus, by observing the representations and messages that are expressed in ceramics, we are associated with very personal creation processes. The influence of Karima Duchamp's work changes like a guess - heavy surfaces and shapes loaded with thousands of pieces of information - but which, on the other hand, are clear, aesthetic and terribly beautiful.

It was easy and bright for me, engaging to follow the poetry of her "style".

The material is used spontaneously, almost "free style", unorthodox according to the requirements of her personal artistic imagination.

It seems that she places the right colors, shapes, lines, lines in an intuitive flow, so that an image of its own particular fascination appears. It is part of the subject a personal moment, as "unhooked" from the reality of the moment.

In this double effect, whether double thought, double felt, or double light, things difficult to grasp come together and give a whole, something emotional, difficult to describe, which beats in the works of Karima Duchamp without deliver of explanation, of concrete.

Despite this, it is visible.

Her approach is as follows:

She wants to mix the visible and the invisible, compose a flow then expose it to the fire in the hope that the kiln, the fire, the hellish temperatures in no way destroy it, do not even touch it and that the fiery heat solidifies - not - she hopes that in the best of cases, the kiln adds something good, extra, a process that does not exist in ceramics.

Shadow and light, says Karima Duchamp, present and past, concept and matter must merge.

During the preparation, I of course asked questions about the material, the concept, the technique and the representation; Karima Duchamp has provided me with a very interesting puzzle such as abstractions, moments of creation, ideas that are related to her way of working.

Let us follow for a moment the premises of his creative path.

Das was wir sehen, sehen wir nicht… what we see, we don’t see.

She uses, plays and works with barely visible representations, thrown sketches, indications, human representations, never exact or concrete, human bodies, like illusions, with erased, imprecise, blurred parts.

She uses traces of the past, bits of pictures, parts, vestiges of history, she works with "used" things that wear a patina.

She works at a distance, reality always seen from afar, with other eyes, with the eyes of another.

Karima Duchamp considers herself aside, not concerned and with a sharp look.

It has layers, which are like paint, charcoal, to which is added the gesture, the superficial, the locked up, the intimate. She works patiently, attentively as in meditation. She follows her intuition.

Karima Duchamp started her career 15 years ago. She then painted on canvas. It had layers, strata of colors, of materials, always thicker. She was obviously looking for something new. She told me that she almost came across ceramics during a lesson and it was the plasticity of the clay that immediately interested her.

This is how Karima Duchamp began training in ceramics and creating a workshop. By crossing the steps of the School of Fine Arts in Besançon, she obtained her Master of Art diploma, which gave a new start with the medium of clay, porcelain, a departure to which she aspired.

As a distinguished artist after last year's award, here in Oldenburg, she moved to the renowned Clay Studio in Philadelphia in the USA with a grant from New Ceramics magazine.

She could then live a very intense and very creative time; friendly colleagues helped her and organized a productive environment. All the equipment was made available to her, and all technical questions were answered by specialists.

Work was possible at any time and the presence of students and an inspiring audience different from the silence of the workshop.

Assuming the presentation of her own workshop and talking about her home was felt as an opportunity, an emotion.

A month-long stay is short to transform your own work. Nevertheless, Karima Duchamp was able to devote herself more intensely to each piece, to fine-tune it for longer, to work more strata with more shapes and colors.

For all these reasons, she says it will not be her last "artist in residence".

The future, according to her wish, must on the one hand bring continuity and refinement, on the other hand come ideas, desires for sculptures. She started to think about space, to associate an environment. She was able to distance herself from her work thanks to the time spent at the Clay Studio, a chance to be able to reflect by taking her time.

Karima Duchamp has two daughters and the family is usually her center. From personal experience, I can say how difficult it is to reconcile the two.

Her love of ceramics is also shown in her work, her commitment in other aspects. She is a correspondent for Ateliers d'Art de France and recently a lecturer at the European Institute of Ceramic Arts in Guebwiller.

Let us return, however, to the works exhibited by the artist Karima Duchamp and her artistic credo: "Das was wirsehen, sehen wir nicht ... what we see, we don’t see"

Complex visual impressions awaken our imagination. If we do not immediately find a place, an image, a photo, a ceramic all the more interesting ... If the professional is hidden, remains concealed, which is to tell the truth, the characteristic of an artistic work, then it begins to intrigue, to fascinate the observer and to inspire the observer.

All our senses, our mind and our intellect would like to be solicited, our aesthetic sense is perhaps attracted or educated, but our instinct for play, our curiosity present us as homo sapiens and homo ludens.

And without us having to turn to the Impressionists and without quoting famous painters who have been immortalized in ceramic, when you make your own a work of Karima Duchamp, then you have the luxury and the pleasure of seeing another decor every day.

You are then yourselves actors of your emotions and representations: she, the artist has found a way to expose her hundred facets so that in the end her thousand representations show and reflect their complexity, to show you what you do not see. I am sure you will learn to discover more and more.

Using Format