If you don’t know what lithophane is, you’re not alone. This not-very-widespread technique consists of representing a subject on a porcelain plate by playing with thickness and transparency. Using this artistic technique, French ceramist Annick Thiaville creates a series of decorative objects inspired by dreams and nature.
In the shadows and into the light
Annick Thiaville is one of the few European ceramists who still practice the art of lithophane, which was very fashionable in the 19th century. A lithophane is a piece of art where the subject is reproduced on porcelain and, once it is exposed to the light of a lamp or the sun, it reveals every beautiful detail of its decorative elements.
Passionate about light, the discovery of lithophane allowed Thiaville to be inspired by her first loves: film, image and glasswork.
The designer conceives her work as a revealer. Seeking to put her subjects to light, the artist also highlights their dark sides, often revealing surprising nuances.
“I want to show that shadow and light form a whole, that together they create harmony. By making them dialogue instead of opposing each other, I invite the spectator to enter into the heart of the object.”
A complex and meticulous process
The practice of lithophane involves a long process and the use of materials with complex constraints. The artist begins with sculpting wax on a back-lit glass panel at her workshop. This matrix allows for the creation of a plaster mold, which is cast using a layer of liquid porcelain. Related to wood, glass and metal, the very thin sheets of porcelain obtained are just waiting to be lit by natural or electric light.
Thiaville’s extensive world travels motivate her to convey memories of her experiences and unique encounters in her art. In her series Instant d’ailleurs (“Instant elsewhere”), she puts some of her fleeting memories of Asia and America on porcelain.
To achieve her stunning porcelain plates, the artist often works with x-rays, a banal and anonymous support, but also a genuine “identity card”.
With Cabinet de Curiosités (“Cabinet of Curiosities”), Thiaville explores the theme of scientific collections. Real or fantasized, her curiosity cabinets are based on naturalistic subjects such as the anatomical plates of marine and aquatic animals.
Once completed, whether individually or in small quantities, the pieces are placed under glass-blown globes or inside frames to show their exceptional character.
Currently installed in her new studio in Baccarat in eastern France, Thiaville practices her special know-how and explores floral themes influenced by Art Nouveau.