An inner room, by Kerstin Wickman
Article in Ceramics Art and Perception 55/2004, translation William Jewson
Whitewashed, convoluted forms. Openings that seem somehow intangible yet which lead into highly palpable interior spaces. Eva Hild’s ceramic objects are unbelievably thin-walled. Visually they appear to hover in the air in spite of their considerable size. Eva works in a world of forms beyond that of mathematics and engineering as though nature itself were the artist. It was with such forms that Eva Hild met the public at her graduation exhibition in 1998. She was immediately invited to show her work at an international ceramics conference held at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. One of her pieces was reproduced on the cover of the printed report from the congress.
Critics and the general public were spellbound at her first solo exhibition at the Inger Molin Gallery in Stockholm in 2000. Sweden’s Nationalmuseum purchased one of the pieces while another piece was acquired by the new international ceramics museum which opened at Gifu in Japan in October 2002.
What is it about her work that fascinates us? Her ceramic objects have a magical quality. They suggest membranes, details of skeletons, caves or a world beneath the sea. As our gaze follows the winding cavities, the shadows and surfaces seem gradually to change form. There is a timeless quality about them as though they had come about through natural processes. Their large volumes strengthen the sense of corporality. They have a spatial and physical presence.
People have always been fascinated by the relationship between the interior and exterior worlds: the dualism between inside and outside, content and form, feeling and shape, impression and expression, explanations and religious concepts. Eva Hild achieves a unity of inside and outside, starting from the inside and employing not the basic geometric forms exploited by so many pioneers of modernism but organic forms from the natural world.
What she is trying to do is to visualize something that cannot actually be seen but that is powerfully experienced; how pressure from outside influences our interior. She gives expression to things that obstruct her work as an artist – such as feelings of discomfort, pain and insecurity. The large size of her sculptures means that she can relate them to her own body. While she is working on them they act as spiritual looking glasses, reflecting her interior state. She starts from the inside and lets what she finds there determine the outward form.
Given the complexity of Eva Hild’s forms one might imagine that she would need a computer to calculate them. This is far from being the case. Sometimes she makes a few sketches in advance but the details cannot really be foreseen. Somehow she manages to make clay, such a sticky and physical material, seem immaterial. Yet she could never produce her forms in any other material. Clay is wonderfully plastic and allows itself to be constantly reworked. It is no accident that God chose clay when making Adam. Humanity must have discovered the life-giving qualities of clay at an early date.
By building up her pieces using coils of clay Eva Hild is able to change the direction she wants to go in at any point. She can work using bold gestures, making the forms veer off and billow in one direction or another. She smoothes out the seams and rounds off the forms using a metal scraper. Her material is a white porcelain clay that includes graded molochite grogs to ensure low shrinkage during firing. The clay is smooth, malleable and leathery; which enables her to produce very complex forms. As this grade of clay does not readily collapse it can be used to make large forms.
Eva’s sculptures grow slowly, contemplatively, and the work cannot be hurried along. It takes weeks for her to coil and scrape forth her sculptures. When the clay is quite dry she spends hours in a fume-cupboard, sanding away at the surfaces, wearing a mask and protective clothing. When she is happy with the form of the sculpture she sprays it with a slurry of kaolin which forms a transparent coating. The sculpture is then allowed to dry very slowly and is finally fired to a temperature of 1230º-1250ºC for up to 48 hours. Her kiln sets a limit to the size of her work. Each piece takes from two to three months of work.
When they are finished, the sculptures seem almost to hover above the surface on which they are placed whether it be a floor, a shelf or a podium. They dominate the room and their integrity shines quietly through. The finished pieces have a matt, dry and “raw” texture, their whiteness emphasizing their non-physical character. The edges are pared down and this helps to strengthen the lines and shadows and the play of light.
Though Eva Hild showed an early interest in art, her initial training was as a physiotherapist. She learnt to observe and to understand people’s bodies and this would seem to have influenced her art. She took a course in ceramics and this convinced her that clay suited her temperament. “It is concrete, physical and accessible” she explains, “not expensive or exclusive”.
In 1991 she gained admission to HDK (The School of Design and Crafts at Gothenburg University). This was a time of transition in the school with hard-working students and an energetic atmosphere. The ceramics department was housed in old shipbuilding premises and there was plenty of physical space in which to experiment. Eva made the wildest experiments. “I wanted to do something different with the clay and I was not conscious of any restrictions at that time.” She took a year off to attend a school of fine arts and this enabled her to develop her artistic ambitions. When she returned to HDK in 1996 there was a new professor of ceramics, Torbjörn Kvasbö. He taught the students the importance of focus and of developing a critical attitude towards their own work. For her graduation show she concentrated on a specific problem that she investigated in five large, white billowing sculptures.
The circumstances of life change. Today Eva is married and has three small children. The family lives in the former post office in a tiny village outside of Borås in the west of Sweden. Here she has her studio which is large and airy. Light floods in through the windows with a glittering lake beyond. Life with small children brings many new experiences and these find expression in her work.
Gradually she has found new means of expression. The emotions that the inner cavities of the sculptures communicate are more fleeting and joyful than in the early days. In her early works there is a sense of brooding, of tension. This has become less dramatic with the years. Now it is the outer shell that is her focus and the outside of her sculpture has become more physical. What formerly appeared introverted has now been turned into a flowing sense of freedom. Her sculptures open themselves to the world. They are still abstract, still pared down but the cavities are more playful, more rhythmical. She can perforate them, cut into them, let the forms branch out or combine with each other.
Despite the high degree of abstraction in Eva Hild’s sculptures they have a narrative quality that reflects the various phases of her life. Though her technique is virtuosic, yet her work never seems determined by technical considerations. And though her sculptures are physically heavy, weighing from 15 to 20 kilos, they are least of all static; but are informed by a powerful sense of movement. She has found a language of gesture that expresses feelings in all their diversity and that challenges us to look deep into our own innermost depths.