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Text by Willi Bürgi on the fireball        
Jürg C. Bächtold worked for weeks on the Erli ob Uffikon. The artist built a ball of unusual dimensions out of a ton and a half of clay. The result was not just a full sculpture. He layered tubes upon tubes, connected them to the outer skin of the sphere, not without leaving enough space between the clay tubes. Finally, the raw sphere measured a diameter of 1.70 m and grew to a height of 1.40 m. She needed supports so that she didn't collapse in the event of a fire at the latest. She needed a roof so that the rain wouldn't soften her. It needed an oven so that it could be heated to 1,300 degrees. And all of this outdoors, in the middle of the clover at the KKL Uffikon.
Bächtold calls his work “Split Sphere”. The forces of destruction, transformation and constant evolution are incorporated into their aesthetics. The perfect shape of the sphere was torn, not only by the later fire, but already in the artist's imagination. Later, during the fire, nothing could be left to chance. Breakage as a result of drying out too quickly or overheating would be a catastrophe.
The image of the open, the development of the earth (earth as both a term for clay and a terrestrial globe) is central to Bächtold. His sphere has nothing static, the sound does not. The artist always processes the long history of the earth with him when he grabs the cool mass with his hands, shapes it, changes it.
Millions of years of geological history lie buried in the clay, from the towering of the granite mountains to their removal in the finest traces,

which were washed over long distances, mixed with organic materials until they were deposited, layer by layer. It was not until much, much later that people came across these layers, lifted them, processed them into pots, into writing tablets, and finally into sculptures.

Bächtold speaks of the "information" that is hidden in the fine earth and that he passes on with his works of art. His works have the strongest effect when he is not trying to depict something, for example a human figure [although there, too, he achieves a great self-willedness], but when he approaches archetypes with his material. He always inscribes new projections and new stories on the circle, the ball, for example. Or he discovers the exciting shape of a pebble in the stream, the penetration of primeval surfaces in plants or the fantastic fall of a rift. They stimulate him on his long hikes, in his on-site studies. Jürg Bächtold, who was born in Schaffhausen in 1945 and grew up in Emmen, has walked a long, largely lonely path to his present-day understanding of art and his present-day skill. He trained as a machine mechanic and then worked in quality assurance at the aircraft factory in Emmen.

At the same time, he always devoted himself to working with clay. He did not attend any apprenticeship or arts and crafts school for this.

He worked everything out himself, including his first turntable.

He took a table, sawed a rondelle out of a Novopan board, reinforced it on the outside with a sheet metal band, and poured cement up to the height of the band.

In the center of the rondelle, he placed an axis, mounted the round table top on which he stuck a plastic disc, which he in turn filled with cement. “That's how I invented a kick disk and, for me, the principle of turning,” he remembers. «The work could begin. I had never seen anyone shoot in real life, except in a film. I just tried and tried and tried and threw the clay on the wall again and scraped it off again.

I was angry. And at one point I made it. The cylinders got higher. There were bowls, plates, cups. It worked ». In the end he bought an electric turntable and later his own oven in Hochdorf, which he built himself because he wanted to know how it worked. He set it up for gas because the atmosphere in the gas furnace is easier to control, which was important for the glazes he was using at the time.

At one point pure pottery was no longer enough for him. He began to assemble his “blanks” by hand and produced more and more objects instead of consumer goods. 1986 he had the first exhibition in the ad hoc gallery in Hochdorf and his works were immediately popular.

The more Bächtold brings the peculiarities of the clay to the fore, the simpler his creative solutions are, the more present, because the works are more idiosyncratic. The “split sphere” on the Erli has reached its full size. It reveals its inner workings. It shines imposingly on the evening of

4th of September into the night, glowing white, an earthen sun. Presumably, a stoneware object of this size has never been fired in one piece in Switzerland. The artist constructed the furnace for the fire on site, from pipes, grids, ceramic fiber mats, ten cubic meters in size. The whole thing is heated with ten gas burners of around 30 kWh each, which produce carefully dosed heat for around 24 hours. The burning process demands the artist's presence and vigilance the whole time, because nobody knows for sure whether such a large work can be burned without damage. Towards the end, the ball should reach 1300 degrees or a little more.

Working with the clay always remains a tightrope walk, especially when, like Bächtold, you keep trying out new things and not just making series. The fire has the last word.

Saturday, September 4th, from 8 p.m. Meadow in front of the KKL Uffikon. It is planned to open the furnace between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. A musical supporting program accompanies the event.


Willi Bürgi editor, Sursee

From then on he was a sought-after man in galleries.

Of course, he did keep an eye on the masters after all.

He visited Friedrich Stachat in Fürstenwalde, Prof. Giovanni Cimatti in Faenza, and Prof. Imre Schrammel in Budapest. And he taught himself, gave and passes on his experiences in courses, was significantly involved in setting up the pottery in the M-art house in

Suhr, who organized workshops with international greats from the ceramics scene in his new studio in Willihof, was a guest lecturer in Zurich, Ticino, Carinthia and Saarland. The list of his

Exhibitions is long. He was invited to international competitions in Zagreb, Faenza and Vallauris.

In 1999 he moved into his new studio in Willihof. In a large converted barn, he has the space that allows him to relax, to concentrate, but also to work generously. Connected to the studio, he now has an exhibition room in which his works can come into their own. This gives his creative urge a boost. «The sound is my life. He fascinates me, ”he says. Clay does not have to be a material for something. Clay is a work material in itself. Accordingly, it is important to handle and shape it according to its laws.

Bächtold paid a lot of money to discover these laws and he worked tirelessly to develop the aesthetics of clay. The rudimentary forms emerged that no longer want to imitate art and artificiality, but literally autochthonous forms. Bullets that burst because the force wants to break out of them. Circles and semicircles in which entire subjects of subordinate shapes and structures explode.

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