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01.11.2018

Extensive retrospective of the Estonian designer and ceramist Anu Rank-Soans

Works ranging from late 1960s until 2000s

Anu Rank-Soans (b. 1941) is an artist who has worked almost her entire professional life designing mass produced items. She has performed two different roles: in parallel to designing functional everyday objects, she has also created one-off art pieces for exhibition which is open until 31 March 2019. This exhibition provides an overview of her work in both of these roles because Anu Rank-Soans deserves recognition as a classic in both design and art for her extraordinary contribution to the development of Estonian design and applied art.

After graduating cum laude from the ceramics department at ERKI (State Art Institute of the Estonian SSR) in 1967, Anu Rank-Soans went to work at the Tallinn Industrial Ceramics Factory workshop in Siimusti, Jõgeva. She ended up working in the industry for several decades: subsequently at the Pärnu Building Material Factory and also at the Tallinn Industrial Ceramics Factory. Although Rank-Soans’ applied ceramics, characterised by good proportion and simple form, have enriched our everyday environment for half a century, they still feel fresh. She brought to mass production applied items with innovative forms and proportions, mainly designing unembellished ceramic ware with unusual shapes and often in series that could be combined. In several series she implemented a modular system, meaning that pieces could be combined to create new compositions, which also made them decorative and multifunctional.

In parallel to her work as an industrial designer, Rank-Soans participated at exhibitions with her one-off creative work. As an artist, she has displayed great respect for clay and tested various techniques for processing it. Several of her works have expanded the nature of contemporary ceramics and the potential of applied art in critically addressing important topics. During her professional career, Rank-Soans has made functional applied items as well as pop and trash art, monumental works and installations.