What is Wrong with Lotte Glob?
When Danish TV last interviewed ceramic artist Lotte Glob, they asked her if she will ever return to her native country. "No!" she adamantly replied, and, TV being what it is, the most obvious question for her interviewer to ask next was, "So, what's wrong with Denmark?" As Glob tells it, she thought for a second, and then quickly replied, "Nothing. Maybe it's just that there's something wrong with me." So, what is wrong with Lotte Glob?
Last weekend I drove over to Lotte Glob's self-styled 'sculpture croft' at Laid, a small, and some would say remote, community where the expansive 'wilderness' that Glob has planted up with native broad-leaved trees leads down to the shores of Loch Eriboll. Ahead of me, exploring the sculpture garden that Glob has developed over several years now, were a group of visitors from Ullapool, on a trip arranged by An Talla Solais in connection with a the gallery's current exhibition titled Northbound | Nordgående (about which, more to follow soon). I had arranged to meet them there.
The tour of Glob's land at Laid could not have been organised for a better day in terms of the weather (32°c said the numbers on the display as I climbed out of the car) and I hurried in, hoping to catch up with Glob and her visitors after their pre-arranged lunch. I could hear voices, scattered among the trees and bushes, punctuated by the occasional "Oh! Look at that!" as one or other of the visitors came upon yet another of Glob's creations in some sheltered spot under trees, or among the wild flowers that are in full bloom now.
With everyone eventually rounded up for a short talk by Glob – a talk that quickly turned into a kind of free-associative ramble through her creative past and the wider aspects of her work – it quickly became evident that to try and write succinctly about what Glob actually does with her life was not going to be easy: on several occasions she referred to her time spent re-sighting her ceramics in the wider landscape of the Northwest Highlands as "Not Land Art", and questioned what future generations would make of it when they eventually came across it. If it's not land art, though, what is it?
To some, Lotte Glob, the renowned Danish ceramicist (who has twice been interviewed here by Danish TV) is "the Bernard Leach of the Far North". To others, she is that Danish woman who started out throwing bowls and flogging mugs from a studio further along the north coast at Balnakiel Craft Village: at that time trading as Far North Ceramics. In 2004, she gave her website a makeover and rebranded herself Lotte Glob, Ceramic Artist, which is pretty much on the button. By this time she had been developing the croft land that had once been home to crofters and sheep, too.
Born in Denmark, and for a while living in Ireland, Glob now seems well-settled, and she doesn't seem to be doing too bad on the 'sculpture croft' concept that she's developed. Indeed, when Danish TV last interviewed her, they asked her if she will ever return to Denmark. "No!" she adamantly replied, to which the most obvious follow-up question was, "So What's wrong with Denmark?" As Glob tells it, she thought for a second, and then quickly said, "Nothing. Maybe it's just that there's something wrong with me." So what is wrong with Lotte Glob? Well, nothing that she's going to tell, certainly. Why would she? She's revered in her home country, and celebrated for her work in so many galleries and museum collections listed on her website that your finger starts to ache as you scroll down the list.
Although his name appears on her website, in conversation last weekend she didn't mention her work with Marshall Anderson (also known as Pete Horobin, and Peter Haining) who, when he lived in Scotland, is said to have viewed the entire country as his ‘studio without walls or limits’. For a while, as Pete Horobin, he worked on Daily Action Time Archive (aka DATA), which was undertaken between 1980-1989 and reflected his involvment in the radical international 'art' movements of mail art and neoism. As Marshall Anderson (between 1990-1999) he worked as a mixed media and ceramic artist, and freelance art critic (he wrote about Glob's work on three occasions that I know of). He then took the name Haining, under which he developed an interest in autodidactic art practice in Ireland.
Glob, I am told by a fairly reliable source, lived with Horobin (during the period he was calling himself Marshall Anderson) in the 1990s, and some would say that it was partly his influence that led to some of her more extravagant experiments to create ceramic books, but then I could be wrong. Who knows? Maybe it was the other way round. As The Times reported (PDF) in 2012, however, although 'Marshall Anderson’ was a name that, for Horobin,
underlined [his] activities as a writer, critic and ceramicist in the 1990s, while in the period from 2000 to 2005, under the persona of ‘Peter Haining’, [he] concentrated on documenting and researching ‘outsider’ art, such as that of Angus MacPhee, the celebrated Hebridean 'weaver of grass'. Horobin is an important artist who is finally beginning to gain some of the recognition his work deserves – and demands. A product of the post-Fluxus generation, Horobin adopts a number of tropes made familiar by Joseph Beuys. Principal among these is the idea that the life of the artist and the process of living is, in itself, a form of art – a work in progress in which anything and everything associated with the artist becomes legitimate artistic material.
Seen against this background, Lotte Glob's 'sculpture croft' comes into shaper focus (and some would say, may be seen in a better context). Interesting, too, are the names that appear on the periphery of her story and who yet, in some ways, are central to it. Her father is a good example here. Speaking of confusing the archaeologists of the future when they encounter her 'sculptures' in the landscape, she mentions that her father was once an archaeologist.
An Archaeologist? Really? He was indeed! Her father was Peter Vilhelm Glob (1911 – 1985). Otherwise known as P. V. Glob, he was the archaeologist noted for his work on understanding Denmark's 'bog bodies' – Tollund Man and Grauballe Man (the mummified remains of ancient people found preserved within the peat bogs of Denmark). If you know your Seamus Heaney poetry (if not your archaeology), you'll know of Heaney's poem Tollund Man, for sure.
P. V. Glob's fame does not just end there, however. He was also co-founder of the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism (I'm not making this up!), which studied the history of graffiti, and his co-founder was the artist Asger Jorn – himself being co-founder of the European avant-garde art group CoBrA, whose manifesto advocated working collaboratively in an organic mode of experimentation, to combat the sterility of the art world.
Again, in terms of Lotte Glob's own methods, and her 'imagery' too, such connections are important, I think, although the unsuspecting Japanese tourist on the North Coast 500 route may not agree with me. Lotte Glob's father was not just an archaeologist, he was not even just fairly well-connected to artists such as Jorn who was pretty out there in his funding of radical revolutionary literature in France in the 1960s, too; P. V. Glob was also the son of the Danish painter Johannes Glob who made some very fine work indeed (see below). What's more, it is said of P. V. Glob that the archaeological expedition that he once led to the Middle East was the largest scientific cross-border expedition ever made from Denmark.
There is clearly a lot more to Lotte Glob than meets the eye (or ear). The connections that she plays down to visitors (and why wouldn't she, they are there to see ceramics and buy a pot, maybe) seem incredibly important to the work that she does in the Scottish landscape of the far north and elsewhere. When she talks of archaeologists finding her work buried in the peat in years to come, let's not forget the reputation of her father and his work on the Bog Bodies buried in the peat out there in Denmark, and how he is still celebrated and revered at home for his research and ground-breaking findings that instantly became world news.
Indeed, when she talks to the press about her work in the landscape (Country Life, that organ of the landed-gentry throughout the British Isles, is but one magazine that has featured her 'sculpture croft' in recent years) let's not forget the lineage that runs back through her art to her collaborations with (if my source is correct) the experimentation of ceramicist and art critic Marshall Anderson (aka Pete Horobin/Peter Haining) as well, and beyond that to the friend of her father, the Danish radical artist Asger Jorn and his links via CoBrA to a whole host of avant-garde notables.
Even during the height of that period broadly referred to as ‘modernism’, the CoBrA group confounded art critics just as much as many visitors are sometimes confounded by Lotte Glob's apparent eccentricity. But it isn't eccentricity at all when you look closer. Like the CoBrA artists who formed around Asger Jorn, her primary objective is, as theirs was, a spontaneous form of artistic and creative experimentation, and an appreciation of art considered outside the normal institutional understanding of ‘fine art practice’. Seen in that way (and against her wider family background) Lotte Glob's art makes perfect sense, even though she may prefer not to let on.
Lotte Glob's Sculpture Croft Visit