Fascinated by the primeval forests and the mysteries they hold within them, Lund based artist Karin Wiberg creates a magical world in which hares, foxes and deer regard us with curiosity amongst the tall grass, gentle looking people gaze at us as they rise from the ground to greet us as we walk by, delving into our inner thoughts, seeking contemplation or conversation. A calm and silence in the midst of this chaotic world.
The sculptures are created in fired white painted clay or light coloured concrete that resemble stone, and we are encouraged to touch them and have our own emotional interactions with these ethereal pieces. Having always been creative, Karin had repressed her artistic talents for some years, with a detour into nursing, she came back to do what was the most natural for her, to be an artist. Studying sculpture at Idun Lovén’s School of Art for 3 years and then starting her own studio, along with a job as Project Director at Ung Svensk Form. Karin has exhibited both in Sweden and internationally with an exhibition in New York presently in the works. Her current exhibition “Moments” at Thielska Galleriet ends on the 1st of October.
In this interview get a little insight into the artist, who comes across as a gentle soul, who is open and curious, a gentleness that transfers itself onto the images she sculpts.
What was the journey that led you to the artist you are today?
It started when I was very young, around the age of 5 or 6 when I was already artistically inclined and showed signs of creativity. But as I grew older I felt that I wanted to be more extroverted and open, and the creative world was leading me into a more introverted world. So I decided to start studying nursing when I was 22, and became a nurse. I enjoyed helping people although I found the actual job very challenging and quite scary at times! I then took a break from nursing and went to an Art School, and all the repressed creativity just came pouring out of me, I wanted to do it all, painting, photography, sculpting, everything. When it came to working with sculpting clay, I felt I had found what was to be my calling. I have had two important dreams in my life, and one of them was during this period. I had dreamt that the figure I was sculpting came alive and talked to me, it was a very strong dream. It reinforced my decision to be a sculptor and I then applied to Art School in Stockholm.
Has clay always been the medium you have worked with, if so why clay?
I like the three dimensional aspect of clay, and the ability to maneuver it and be able to work with such a natural material, to be able to cut and sculpt and really manipulate it, and there’s also always a conversation and collaboration between the clay and myself as the sculptor. I don’t believe I have the ability to work with stone, I have worked with plaster while at art school, and I have been approached by collectors who have asked me to sculpt in concrete and bronze, something that I may consider doing in the future.
What are the challenges creating fired clay sculptures?
My challenge is in firing the work once its done, as I do not have experience with pottery or ceramics, I have the help of a very good ceramicist who helps me to fire the sculptures. It is a very long and slow process to fire them, there has to always be a hole in the sculpture so that they don’t crack during the firing process. I then paint them with a spray paint to achieve the whiteness they possess The eyes are made from ground graphite.
Your exhibition at Thielska Galleriet now features both animals and people. What is the significance of animals in your art?
I like the gaze of an animal, I like their way of looking at people, they hold your gaze longer than the meeting between two humans. animals are curious about us and I love the way they tilt their heads and that fleeting moment becomes a really intense and present moment, then we move on, hence the title “Moments” for this exhibition. Just that one meeting could be life altering, we need to open ourselves to these moments in life, and establish contact with people around us. I also like to create my sculptures of animals with a human gaze and the humans with an animal gaze.
Do the sculptures of men and women resemble people you know? Some of them do look a little like you. How do you get your inspiration?
Each sculpture lives its own life with a bit of me in it.
Most of them come with inspiration from a feeling from within me that results in a collaboration between me and the clay. I work in silence or with a special radio programme on and in concentration, there is always a part of me that is absorbed by the sculpture I create, which gives it the dimension of being alive with a part of me in it. I have made sculptures that reminds me of a lot of family members. A boy I did before my son was born was very similar to him. I have done a self-portrait of myself at the age of nine, a very important age for me, I think that is when you begin to realize who you are, you can know a little more about what is important in life, looking at life with clarity and sensitivity. It’s important to me that you do not lose yourself in life, to always remember that feeling you had as a child, the seriousness you had for what was really important to you then and what some adults would laugh at.
How did you come to exhibit in Japan, and how were your sculptures received there?
It was the Japanese Curator and Art Collector Teruo Kurosaki of Midori.so who saw my sculptures here in Sweden and invited me to his gallery in Tokyo and the Holy Moss Garden in Komatsu, ”The Forest of Wisdom”.
The sculptures were very well received in Japan, the exhibition was a huge success. The visitors to the exhibition were very convinced that my sculptures were alive, that you can see an animal in human beings and that animals are a bit human inside. It was absolutely fantastic to have my exhibition in Japan at two different locations, I met wonderful people, full of respect for my art, a very poetic and beautiful experience. And to top it all, a very special atmosphere at the Moss Garden.
You have exhibited in the crypt at the Cathedral in Lund, a rather unusual location, what effect did you wish for those viewing the sculptures there?
I received the most poetic and beautiful quote from Lena Sjöstrand of Lunds Domkyrka:
“On the border, Karin Wiberg’s sculptures exist on the border. The border between animal and human,
Between nature and culture, between time and eternity.
They are still but exude power. They close their eyes and see. In our encounter with them we are reminded of that which is greater.”
– Lena Sjöstrand, Canon, Lund Cathedral
I wanted to reach the public, to reach their hearts and minds with sculptures.
A desire to convey goodness and consideration, trust, peace and security through art and through me. I wanted to show the power of how important art is in everyday life and how it can affect us. The sculptures would not be demanding or intrusive in the crypt, but shine like bright creatures in the darkness, a walk among white girls and animals, men resembling light grey stones, Saints and my self-portrait. I hoped that the visitors could experience a meeting both with the art and themselves. My art crosses all boundaries, for all ages, people, religions and cultures.
You have been involved with the organisation Ung Svensk Form for many years, what is it that you do for them, and what role does Ung Svensk play in the role of the arts in Sweden?
I am the Project Manager for Ung Svensk Form and I love it. I made the decision while at art school that I wanted to have an extra job, not only because I needed a monthly income, but also because I think it is good to have contact with the world outside, life away from just studying and creating. It was an opportunity to meet all kinds of people, get inspired, to get knowledge, influences and learn from young and talented designers and artists.
The project results in an annual award and exhibition conducted by Swedish Form. Ung Svensk Form is an arena for young design. It was created with the aim of increasing the knowledge and widening the scope for new, innovative Swedish Design, helping it reach new audiences. The exhibition offers designers a possibility to meet the audience and manufacturers, a chance to initiate dialogue and establish new contacts.
The exhibition is open to both young designers working in Sweden and Swedish designers residing and working outside of Sweden. Designers born in 1981 or later can apply. Older applicants may also apply if they are studying at the time of application.
What are your plans now after the exhibition at Thielska which ends on the 1st of October?
I will work a lot in the studio for future exhibitions.
I have a number of orders from both private individuals and public institutions.
The exhibition at Thielska has inspired me enormously and I am full of new ideas and also working on developing some forms and expressions of the sculptures. I look forward to working with new materials, which is very exciting. I will also focus even more on the stories of the various figures. ”Good heart, good art”