Extract from the book Eva Hild, text Petter Eklund
Carlsson bokförlag 2009, translation William Jewson
Form as Time
I really know almost nothing at all about Albert Einstein. But I find myself thinking of him when I come face to face with Eva Hild’s art. The Einstein that turns up in my mind is a figure from childhood, that rather unkempt old man who looks like an ideal grandfather. In school textbooks there were pictures of strange forms folding into each other. This was the era of time warp, of infinity as space in which spaces coincided and distances collapsed. Einstein maintained that time could stand still. I could not understand how but the notion felt fantastic and, somehow, calming. There was the promise of other routes than the blind alley from A to B; the “final countdown” that exists deep in all of us. This is precisely the spot where Einstein and Eva Hild’s sculptures connect, deep in my stomach, in my heart, in the confusion of life where hopes and dreams simmer. We stand there, like wide-eyed children, confronted by the shapes. They carry their own evolution yet we recognize ourselves in these convolutions. We see how realities are turned in on themselves, how interiors become exteriors, how days and bodies clutch each other and shadows become bright and imagination is for real. Eva Hild’s sculptures have a natural quality about them, as though they had always existed. In spite of the fact that there are no pictures on the surfaces they seem to be rich in narratives and to give answers to life’s questions that are not a matter of mathematics or physics. We see them as though they are skeletal forms and shells from an unfamiliar reality, relics of a sunken civilization, details of the inner ear, of sliced egg whites. The forms seem to have crystallized directly out of the air, to have been bleached with all the world’s forbidden bleaching agents, to have been burnt with acids and filed down to a state of absolute necessity. Yet they are the work of just two hands.
Everyone asks: “How does she do it?” The perfection of Eva Hild’s forms means that I readily forget that they have been built by a mere human being (shoe size 39). The sense of materiality, which many ceramicists spend their lives trying to achieve, is expressed by a matt surface that seems to have been produced by a gigantic 3D printer. It reminds me of “precious ornaments” at home. When I was a child, elderly relatives often had a seemingly unchanging room with one of these ornaments in the form of a much prized souvenir that expressed the fragility and beauty of life and that was guarded by a chorus of “just look but don’t touch”. Despite the fact that Eva Hild’s sculptures are physical and embracing one does not touch them. Partly this is due to their size. We can come into contact with them but we cannot lift them up or hold them. They are “untouchables” with a profound integrity. I am gripped by a blasphemous thought: tap it with a hammer, chip away at it and crack it open. What would that feel like? A traditional Japanese attitude to ceramics sees a birthmark or some minor damage to an object as an imperfection that is important in that it provides a sort of entrance to the object’s own history.
E-mail from Eva Hild dated 16th March 2009:
There is an obvious danger in getting too close to “perfection”, producing technically brilliant work that is totally unthreatening. I struggle with myself and I hope that, at some point, this struggle will be visible even though I am very good at sanding it down.
Much has been said about the time-consuming process of creating Eva Hild’s forms. It takes her more than half a year to produce a sculpture, an extraordinarily unfashionable duration for manufacturing something – analogous to a hand-built sports car – but it is an important ingredient in the magic of Eva Hild’s art. For we are naturally fascinated by the artist’s physical effort which finds expression in the myth of the landscape painter’s struggle with the elements, the expressionist’s jazzy paint-throwing, the great masters’ combat with ideas that are torn out of time and matter. Eva Hild joins the long tradition of artists engaged in struggle.
E-mail from Eva Hild dated 23rd February 2009:
If I am to propose the cornerstones of my way of working they would be time and reflection; resolute and constant application, an intuitive process that I define and formulate as I go along. There is inertia in the forms. Control in combination with the urge to expand and stretch and reach and move on (in every sense…)…
A trip to the studio. The train meanders through the hills outside Herrljunga through gently rolling woods and fields. The landscape, too, has interiors and exteriors. We are not far from Gothenburg yet we are marginalized. Eva Hild chose to leave the city and to move with her family to the village of Sparsör in 1998. Cheap housing with lots of space. She has explained that it was only when she had moved and could enjoy privacy that her art was able to grow and develop. Eva Hild is waiting for me on the platform (wearing rubber boots). She drives us through the village, pointing out the bakery and the medical clinic where her mother has worked for many years. “Chance brought us here. The place is not important in itself but access to the countryside means a lot”, she explains as we pass the school and nursery attended by her three daughters. We carry on past a former furniture factory and on to the abandoned post office. This is where she lives, ten steps from the railway line with 22 trains every day linking one to the world beyond. On the other side of the tracks is Lake Öresjö, “essential for being able to live here” and, beyond that a billowing forested ridge which is somewhat Hild-like in its unbroken line. It is here, with the domestic sounds of saucepan lids from upstairs, with cars on the street and neighbours tramping past, in the most everyday of domestic settings that Eva Hild’s ethereal sculptures are created.
Work-time. E-mails answered. Hours of work and raw materials; a slow adventure every day. The clay is Vingerling K 129, grogged stoneware clay from the Netherlands that comes in 10-kilo packets. There are tons of clay piled on pallets in the cellar. The clay is pure and efficient, a building material with no organic impurities and surprises. Eva Hild is no clay-romantic. She takes the plastic covering from half-finished sculptures lying like dead bodies on the floor, like alarming corpses from a forgotten accident. There is a smell of damp, of earth’s crust, of the mustiness of a mine. She pulls on her overalls and starts building with her strong, secure hands. She is so expert at the technique she uses that one doesn’t even notice it, just as with a carpenter or a musician. She takes clay directly from the packet, kneads it and rolls it into a clay sausage that is wound round into a form. She uses a scraper to even out the surfaces, a kidney-shaped metal tool. Incredible numbers of lengths of clay are needed. Sometimes a whole packet of clay is not sufficient to build up a single layer of a larger form.
“My work is a hunt for something that I am not aware of but am trying to reach and to define. I work with spiritual states that have neither beginning nor end; where everything keeps moving round in a constant dialogue with myself. If I am able to see what will evolve this is not interesting.” The shapes remain raw materials for a long time. It is only at a late stage that she makes the decision to proceed further with them. They may seem troublesome for a time, raw and undecided, but somewhere in the material there is an answer…