Kim Simonsson's exhibition, 2018
Red Riding Hood, 2018, Ceramics and glaze, 95 x 25 x 16 cm.
Girl Feeding a Two Headed Rabbit, Bronze, 70 x 40 x 60 cm, 65 x 50 x 38 cm.
Mossgirl With Birdhouse, Ceramics, nylonfibre, feathers, stereo, 145 x 45cm.
1. Narrativity is a very prominent element in your work. It seems like the characters in your works are alien visitors from a parallel reality that you have invented. How important is narrativity in your art?
My works definitely have a strong narrative element. When I was young, I drew a lot of comic strips and stories have always fascinated me. When I’m working on a sculpture, I don’t necessarily have a story in mind, more like an idea of an incident or encounter where something strange or surprising happens.
I started incorporating feathers in my sculptures after I saw an old African man with a feather in his hair in a video game. And I created a dystopic world around an old stereo that used to sit on my bookshelf. I punched a hole in the speaker and placed a bird’s nest inside. In this way, I recycle obsolete objects that no longer have any purpose in the modern age.
2. There is something familiar and recognizable about your work, yet there is also something uncanny and alienating about it. Your bunny figure has two heads – it isn’t exactly cute anymore. Are your sculptures based on a particular story, or an imaginary place they inhabit in some alternative world?
A rabbit is a very sculptural animal. It is a creature that appears in many sculptures, and that’s precisely the problem. I wanted to come up with an idea that differentiates my work from other rabbit sculptures. These days we are all exposed to the same popular culture and we are influenced by the same things. It’s important to me that my sculptures are never confused with anything else.
Some of my pieces are based on utterly absurd ideas, like my cauliflower textures, which I find pleasingly original. I’m good at coming up with unique and different combinations. Art-making should be all about making something true to yourself – something you enjoy.
3. What inspires you?
I have recently been inspired by Finnish artists with an exuberant, expressive style. My earlier sculptures had a smooth, white, glossy surface because I wanted to emphasize their form. I worked with smooth, polished surfaces for many years, and I was inspired by artists like Jeff Koons. Recently I returned to the style I developed when I first started studying ceramics. I wanted to bring more emotion to my work, so the surfaces of my sculptures are now rougher and more expressive. I wanted my earlier works to look frozen and superficial, but now I want them to look more lively and original.
4. Some of your ceramic sculptures don’t look ceramic at all – for instance your moss people are cloaked in green nylon fiber. Your latest works are coated in colorful glazes. How did you transition from monochromatic whites and green mossy surfaces to vibrant glazes?
While I was living in Canada in the early 2000s, I met an artist who used a nylon flocking technique. Initially I experimented with neon-green flocking, but it didn’t work. I switched to yellow against the black background of the sculpture. Against the black, the slightly translucent green acquired a moss-like appearance.
The surface of my white sculptures is so blank it could be anything. By using glazes, I wanted to comment on the history of ceramic art. Clay is a living, organic material, and when you coat it with a glaze, it doesn’t spread evenly – it runs and trickles. The work acquires a one-off look – each sculpture becomes more of a unique individual.
5. You designed a giant bronze sculpture for the new Tapiola subway station in Espoo, Emma Leaves a Trace. Was designing this large public monument very different from your usual work?
A public monument can’t be too antagonizing: people have no choice but to look at it. Still, I wanted to come up with something mischievous the girl in the sculpture could do. Spitting would have seemed insolent, but tagging the walls with graffiti seemed suitably anarchistic. The walls of the subway station are smeared with Emma’s finger paintings.
One of the great things about the sculpture is that young children really love it. A subway station can seem like a cold, intimidating, noisy place to a child, but the sculpture has been warmly received by kids.
Kim Simonsson at The Armory Show, New York, March 8–11, 2018 and Galerie Forsblom, Stockholm until March 18, 2018.